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THE WAY IT WAS: FIFTY YEARS IN THE
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA BOOK TRADE
Interviewed by Joel Gardner
Completed under the auspices
Oral History Program
University of California
Copyright (c) 1977
The Regents of the University of California
This manuscript is hereby made available for research
purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript,
including the right to publication, are reserved to the
University Library of the University of California at
Los Angeles. No part of the manuscript may be quoted
for publication without the written permission of the
University Librarian of the University of California
at Los Angeles.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
TAPE NUMBER: VIII, Side One (July 2, 1974) 344
A censorship case: Memoirs of Hecate County —
Herman Mann arrested at Pickwick--Court
proceedings --Appeal denied- -Constitutional
uncertainties--Censorship and the bookseller--
from left and right--Lecturing three young
Birchers--Political philosophy--Los Angeles
TAPE NUMBER: VIII, Side Two (July 2, 1974) 369
Paul Lamport--Opposing images of Hollywood
Boulevard--An embezzlement cast — Other Pickwick
employees: Herman Mann--Ben Latting--Lloyd
Harkema--Bob Bennett and Dick Marshall--
Robert Wettereau — A philosophy of numerous
titles--Courtesy in the Pickwick--"Taking
over the saloon."
TAPE NUMBER: IX, Side One (July 2, 1974) 394
Bookstore list--Bill Smith--The Martindales--
Walter and Virginia Martindale--Lloyd Severe--
Jewish-American Bookstore — Ver Brugge's —
Lillian Deighton--Solomon ' s Bookstore — Harry
Dale — Brentano's on Seventh Street--Joe
Chevalier--Hollywood Bookstore — Harry Wepplo.
TAPE NUMBER: IX, Side Two (July 15, 1974) 418
Eugene Bechtold--Larson ' s--Brentano ' s —
Western and eastern bookstores contrasted--
Brentano's in Beverly Hills, 1974 — Adco —
De Vorss--C.U. Branch — Selling door-to-door —
Peggy Christian--M. Harelick.
TAPE NUMBER: X, Side One (July 15, 1974) 442
Mel Royer--Acres of Books — Harry Levinson —
Jack E. Reynolds--Max Hunley — Kurt Schwarz--
Howard and Reese--The Perkinses--The Yales —
TAPE NUMBER: X, Side Two (July 15, 1974) 466
An attempt to unionize Pickwick--Disagreement
with Wilbur Needhain--Politics in Hollywood —
The Larry Edmunds Bookshop--Milton Luboviski--
Antiquarian booksellers — Walter Neuman--The
Briers--Arthur H. Clark — Karl Zamboni--Phil
and Helen Brown — John Cole — Abbey updated:
Juan Pinans--Nick Kovach.
TAPE NUMBER: XI, Side One (July 29, 1974) 491
Antiquarians--Nick Kovach--Cambridge Bookshop —
Lee Freeson--Larson ' s--Kurt Melander — Roman
Novins--Mel Royer--Founding of the Southern
California chapter of the Antiquarian
Booksellers Association--Standards of
membership — Value of membership--Interchange
of knowledge--Leaving and reentering the
chapter--Cherokee Book Shop.
TAPE NUMBER: XI, Side Two (July 29, 1974) 515
Involving Jewish booksellers in the United
Jewish Welfare Fund--Outside activities of
booksellers — Heritage Book Shop--Theodore
Front — Marian Gore--Publishers ' represent-
atives--Role of the salesman--James D. Blake —
Importance of backlist to new-book seller--
Louis Friedman--Harrison Leusler--Carl Smalley —
Ray Healy — Jess Carmack — Ellis Baker.
TAPE NUMBER: XII, Side One (July 29, 1974) 540
Salesmen: Charlie Johnson--Denny Chase —
Raymar--Erret Stuart — Bob Cohen — The Nourses —
TAPE NUMBER: XII, Side Two (August 13, 1974) 562
Southern California Booksellers Association--
"Cavalcade of Books" — The organization today--
Publisher-bookseller relations — First officers —
Involvement with American Booksellers
Association--Growth of ABA in the sixties —
Purpose of ABA — Criticism by new members —
TAPE NUMBER; XIII, Side One (August 13, 1974) 586
Dick Noyes--Duties of ABA president--Changing
goals of ABA--"Mr. Pickwick" column- -Aaron
Epstein's contribution to Pickwick--Branching
out — A digression on Kaspare Cohn--The first
branch, Topanga Plaza--Negotiating with May
Company- -Further expansion — Dayton-Hudson
offers to buy Pickwick.
TAPE NUMBER XIII, Side Two (August 13, 1974) 611
Dayton-Hudson's approach to Pickwick--
Background of Dayton-Hudson--Dayton-Hudson
and bookstores--Decision to sell--Trend
towards dehumanization of the book trade —
Proliferation of chains--Changing nature of
stores--Future of Louis Epstein.
TAPE NUMBER: VIII, SIDE ONE
JULY 2, 1974
GARDNER: I thought we'd start out this time talking about
[Memoirs of] Hecate County and that whole story.
EPSTEIN: In 194 7, the book by Edmund Wilson came out, as
everyone knows. It was a fairly dull book for the people
who ever read it through. But it had two or three pages
in which he gave some fairly intimate descriptions of a
sexual act. Things were not quite as open then as they
are today. Considerable opposition to the sale of it came
up from various organizations — not necessarily organizations,
but individuals, powerful individuals, one of them, Randolph
Hearst, who was at all times at odds with Edmund Wilson,
the author, for some of the things Hearst claimed Wilson
did and Wilson claimed Hearst said. So I personally be-
lieve, and I've had it verified by [someone] who knew
some of the background of their controversy, that it was
strictly a hatchet job by Mr. Hearst and his editors for
the pleasure of Hearst. At any rate, the situation came
to a head in several places in the United States — New York
City and, I believe, somewhere in the Midwest and in Los
Angeles. The book was in stock in every bookstore in the
United States, and no one considered it a bad book. It
got the usual literary credits, but it had no particular
sale until it started being attacked. Then, of course,
people wanted to read it, wanted to know what all the
hullabaloo was about, and it was a tremendous disappoint-
ment to 99 percent of the people who bought the book.
Edmund Wilson is not the easiest person to read — by no
The book, as I said, was on sale in all bookstores.
In this city it was in every department store and in every
bookstore that carried new books. The wholesalers had it,
and it was being openly offered by everyone. And we had
no problems with it until this campaign started. Well,
one day — I recollect it was about the middle of the summer —
a troop of policemen walked in. They knew we had the book
because one of their detectives had come and bought a copy
the day before. Well, they followed it up the next day,
and they grabbed all the copies of Hecate County, and they
arrested one of our employees, Herman Mann — about as in-
nocent a person as ever lived. (Poor Herman has since
died. He left a fine record in the book business, having
worked in Brooklyn at Abraham and Straus and also, locally,
at Bullock's. And he used to meet customers from Abraham
and Straus who now lived here or visited here; they'd re-
cognize each other. That is another story.) Well, they
arrested Herman. They took him to jail, and we eventually
bailed him out. At the time of the arrest I protested,
"Well, why do you arrest him? He only works here." "Well,"
he says, "it's a corporation." They couldn't arrest me —
I was president of the corporation — because the corporate
thing, you cannot be arrested and put in jail. "I per-
sonally didn't sell the book," I said, "but I'm respon-
sible for having it here." Well, that isn't the way the
law worked. The trial, of course, came up some months
later. We tried to get onto the stand witnesses to show
that the book was a good piece of literary writing, and
the prurient scene was incidental to the story and didn't
go on and on offering scenes such as that throughout the
book as straight, dull pornography does. But, no, the
judge at the time wouldn't hear anything of it.
GARDNER: Do you recall who the judge v;as?
EPSTEIN: It may be in the story. [looks at newspaper]
This is the appeal. At any rate. Judge [Mildred L. ] Lillie
heard the appeal. I don't recall the man's name. It'll
probably come back to me a little later. He was an ob-
stinate old fool, and I think he was playing to the grand-
stand of Hearst — who, of course, was watching every move
and making comments at the time. We lost the case. [phone
rings; tape stopped] The corporation was convicted, and
Herman was convicted, but he was let off with a minor fine.
The publisher of the book, Doubleday and Company, furnished
our defense counsel. They were very, very nice about it.
GARDNER: Who were your attorneys?
EPSTEIN: Our attorney was — the judge's name was [Arthur S.]
Guerin. (I work backwards.) Ray Stansberry was the at-
torney, and Guerin was the original judge. And then the
case was appealed, and it later came before Judge Lillie,
who is now, I think, in the superior court or appellate,
I believe. But Guerin was a pompous sort of a guy, and he
wouldn't listen to any defense at all. He actually prac-
tically told the jury that we were guilty from the start.
The attorney, Stansberry — the judge ordered that the whole
book be read in front of the jury, and Mrs. Stansberry sat
there for three days reading that darn thing. But because
of the pressure of the Times and the pressure of the Examiner
and the judge's conduct in court, we were lost from the be-
And the law at that time was very unclear, anyway,
that you could be arrested for almost anything if anyone
wanted to complain that it was obscene. It was surprising
to me that more books didn't come under that, except per-
haps the prosecutors were too busy to do anything about
those things except when somebody influential in the
community raised an issue for whatever reason. Very
often such issues were raised in communities for political
purposes so somebody can get publicity out of it, that he
is the savior of the youth of America. Of course, people
like that are always suspect in my mind.
It went up on appeal, and unfortunately Judge Lillie,
because of the law as it stood, could do nothing about re-
versing the case. Judge Lillie and I have met on many
occasions since, and we always have a laugh about it. She
maintains that she always regretted that she had to
rule against us, but there was no way she could possibly
rule any other way at that time. The U.S. Supreme Court
had never clarified that point. It wasn't until later
that they had such a thing as "v;ithout any literary value"
or "without any social import" as part of the definition.
And I notice now they've even changed it again to make it
even more uncertain as to v/hat is and what isn't. They
leave it to every community to decide for themselves, and
so the poor bookseller--well , such as the Pickwick, who
had thirty branches all the way from Bakersfield to
Hollywood — which community is he going to put a book in?
And how is he going to be protected from being arrested
in Bakersfield and not arrested in San Diego and maybe
arrested again in Fresno and not arrested in Hollywood?
GARDNER: And the ordering 's all done from Minneapolis.
EPSTEIN: Right. And the ordering is done from Minneapolis,
It's an impossible situation. I can't understand the
thinking of supposedly nine wise men in the Supreme Court
making a decision like that. Well, the wise men were
against the decision. If I may go political, I think
it's the Nixon appointees who are out to save the world
from pornography--well , I won't comment any further on
GARDNER: Oh, feel free.
EPSTEIN: If his Supreme Court appointees are no more
honest in their thinking than his other appointees in
his own office, I fear for the United States. This is
actually true, in my mind. It's such a great danger
that the Supreme Court has all that power to declare
things constitutional or unconstitutional. If they don't
think straight, the country's in grave danger. If they're
following their appointer because of his principles, then
they're not lav/yers for the United States; they're lawyers
At any rate, that's the story of Hecate County.
GARDNER: Well, what happened finally?
EPSTEIN: Well, finally the penalties were paid, and busi-
ness went on as usual. The book was withdrawn from circula-
tion. Of course, it's now on every paperback-book shelf.
It's never been acclaimed as a literary success. It was
quietly laying its own egg, and it should have been allowed
to do so. If it wasn't for Mr. Hearst, it probably would
have. It would have gone down in literary circles as a
novel written by Edmund Wilson, appeared in bibliographies;
and scholars would have said that he did it, and nobody
would have understood what he was talking about anyway.
But that is what happens very often when the cudgels are
taken up for saving the human race.
GARDNER: Can you think of any reason in particular why
Pickwick was chosen?
EPSTEIN: It was not only Pickwick. Actually, I should
have inentioned--this has always rankled me--that in view
of the fact that every department store had it and all the
stores in the country, that tv;o stores were picked out.
Not only Pickwick--there was a little tiny store on West
Sixth Street that was being operated by Harry Wepplo. I
think it's Lofland's old store. When Lofland retired,
somebody bought him out. And then Harry Wepplo was helping
him, and then they started taking in new books. It was
originally an old-book store. But poor Harry was also
tried, he and Herman Mann. Curiously, they're both very
short, tiny people, both very mild-mannered. Herman was
more mild-mannered. Harry later opened a bookstore in
Farmer's Market. But those were the only two stores.
GARDNER: Any reason?
EPSTEIN: Department stores were not touched. Of course,
the reason given was, well, the department stores at that
time were very heavy advertisers in the Examiner. So if
Hearst was behind it, he would protect them. But it was
pointed out to the court that only two stores out of
dozens [were affected]. Well, of course, the comment is
that you don't have to arrest every criminal. There's no
defense that other people committing the same crime have
not been arrested. Very often it's impossible to arrest
every one of them--which is perfectly legal; I can under-
stand that. But nevertheless it's curious that the Pickwick,
which of course was right in the heart of Hollywood, the
city of Sin--so-called--and the other was downtown, a
little secondhand bookstore. I don't know what they
were trying to prove by arresting him. I can understand
the psychology of arresting the Pickwick in the midst of
the City of Sin, but I can't see the psychology of the
law of ficers--unless they were going to arrest everybody
in blanket f ashion--that they would pick on poor Harry
GARDNER: Did he have to pay the same fine?
EPSTEIN: Oh, yes, the fine was nominal. As I say, the
defense was provided by Doubleday and Company, the pub-
lishers of the book, so we were not out financially except
the horror of going down to court for days and days and
days at a time and living through the agony of being ac-
cused of selling a pornographic book which is no more
pornographic than thousands and millions of other things.
Well, that's pretty much the story of Hecate County. We
got a lot of good press from some of the more liberal
papers, and of course the literary community in Los Angeles
was all stirred up for two reasons: number one, why the
arrest was made; and number two, why the defense was not
allowed to testify that this book was not offensive to the
public, that the public could read it and not be offended
at all. Well, no such defense was to be allowed, only the
reading of it, and the jury had to make up its own mind.
It was a little bit of a stir at the time.
GARDNER: Did the [American] Civil Liberties Union come
into it at any point?
EPSTEIN: No, they did not appear. They did not appear
on the scene. None of the public organizations appeared.
And I don't think it v;as absolutely necessary for them to
do so at the time. We had sufficient legal counsel, and
we were getting good publicity out of our side of the
story — except, of course, from the Hearst papers, which
continued the attack at all times.
GARDNER: What about other censorship cases in the course
of your career?
EPSTEIN: Well, surprisingly, with the exception of hard-
core pornography, which bookstores don't handle — it's
handled by a different type of person; it never appears
in regular bookstores. . . . (Well, I won't say "never";
I'm sure that there are some small booksellers who might
have a few of those things under the counter or in a drawer
of his desk. There's no question about that. But the
regular bookseller never really bothered with that.) Most
of those things are or were sold either by peddlers or by
some newsstands in certain parts of the area. It's an
underground thing. It was not part of the regular trade.
I recollect in the old, old days when I was still early
in the used-book business, early in my career, there were
people who would come from the East and carry — in their
cars or however--pornographic books, Fanny Hill and such
as that. And they would come to offer them to the used-
book sellers, and, I suppose, to the new-book sellers, too.
And if a person had one or two people who were very anxious
to find a copy, very often we would buy one. There's no
question about it. And we would sell a piece of pornography
from time to time, but we were very, very careful and cir-
cumspect about it. We didn't believe in censorship even
then. But we knew v.'hat would happen to us if we broke
the rules. And curiously, the people who were buyers of
erotica in those days were not little schoolkids . They
were not tramps. They were substantial people in the
community. We had one man who was a major officer in a
major bank who was collecting pornography. And during
the course of my career I sold him several pieces of porno-
graphy. He was a fine, substantial citizen. He raised a
fine family and a very literary family. Not only did he
buy pornography, but he bought other things, too. It
wasn't a question of his mind being preoccupied with it.
Women would buy--at least half of the customers for porno-
graphy were female.
GARDNER: Is that so?
EPSTEIN: Oh, yes. To this day the saying is that if it
were not for the female public, most of the so-called erotic
novels being circulated today probably wouldn't make the
grade. I'm not a psychologist, and I won't go into the
psychological reasons for it; but that's what they say,
and from my own experience, women buy most of that type
of novel. When you come back to this pornography busi-
ness, it's been going on since time immemorial. I have
reprints at home now--I ran across a number of the Bohn
Library editions. I don't know if you're familiar with
them, but they republished the early classics from Pliny's
Natural History to Procopius and any number of the early
Greek and Latin writers; and even in those days they had
what they called erotic literature. Very well known. And
they're still being reprinted today. But you see, when
they reprint one of those, when they reprint Johannes
Secundus, they reprint it as a literary classic. Of course,
they use a different type of language, and they approach the
problem in a different way, but the intent is there. Maybe
they might have been a little bit more literary in their
day. I ran across about a half a dozen of those classics.
I have them right here in the next room.
GARDNER: We'll have to read from them.
EPSTEIN: Well, you'll have to do the reading from them,
GARDNER: But there were no other major censorship cases
that affected Los Angeles?
EPSTEIN: Those few cases that did appear when a person
was arrested were not really, in a sense, a censorship
case as Hecate County. There was really no defense for
them at that time. Now they have defended Fanny Hill and
found it innocent. V-Thether Fanny Hill being tried today
under the new Supreme Court ruling would come off scot
free or not, I don't know.
GARDNER: It's impossible to say.
EPSTEIN: It's possible that some community, if you apply
strictly community standards — for instance, a copy was
sold, say, in an Amish village in Pennsylvania and they
had a jury of that type. Or we could name quite a few
communities where a thing like that might happen. The
book was sold everywhere in the country, and this particu-
lar county, because of the nature of the citizens and their
beliefs, it might be found to be offensive to them. And
that is apparently the only rule.
GARDNER: As a bookseller, what are your feelings about
EPSTEIN: My feelings about censorship is that they serve
no purpose, never have, and never will. Censorship has
never eliminated pornography. Censorship of conduct has
never eliminated bad conduct. Censorship of almost any-
thing has never eliminated the thing that it wanted to
censor. I think history will bear that out. People were
burned for witchcraft, and there's just as much so-called
witchcraft today as there ever was. People were prosecuted
for writing pornography, and as long as there are men to
write, pornography will be written. And as long as there
are people living, they will want to read pornography.
I had an instance. Well, when the new wave of the so-called
pornographic novels came out, there was considerable crit-
icism by some people, and a great many of our customers
were very much upset because we sold that type of thing.
Now, for instance, when everybody started selling the
Fanny Hill--we'll use that as the classic example— we were
severely criticized for selling it. And we had to defend
ourselves to some of our customers who believed that be-
cause it had had such a bad reputation that it should
continue to have it and not be sold except whichever way
it had been circulated.
One man wrote to me , a customer of many years' stand-
ing, and I answered him. He complained about this thing
being offered to young people and so forth, that it would
hurt their morals and all that. And I explained to him in
my own way. What his reaction to my letter was after he
got it, I'll never know, because I never heard from him
again. Whether he continued to be a customer of the shop
or not, I don't know either, because I didn't know him
personally. But at any rate, I wrote and told him that in
the history of censorship, censorship has never been effec-
tive, and in spite of censorship, people who want to read
those things usually find them and can find them. They've
never been unavailable in the total sense. He made some
remark about children reading it; and I told him that I
had read pornography, and I'm positive my children have
read pornography, and I'm sure that their children are
going to read pornography, and that we do not consider
ourselves an unusual family in that sense, nor a family
that lacks morals. It's just a natural curiosity. And
I don't think it will affect any one of us in any particu-
lar way, morally--or psychologically, for that matter. I
remarked to him what my children were doing, that one was
a scientist with his doctorate and doing research work,
and that the other son was in business with me doing very
well at that. And we enjoy an excellent reputation in
the community. Now, what effect that letter had on the
person, I don't know. But I've always defended it.
There are various kinds of censorship. There was the
censorship of the McCarthy era and the censorship of the
Birchers, the America Firsters; and there is the censor-
ship attempted, many attempts at censorship, even by the
extreme left in Hollywood during their heyday when they
were very powerful. Here, again, I don't want to go into
a discussion of politics, but these are facts that these
things have happened, and they happened to me: that a
Bircher would come in and see two books, one alongside
the other; and he would take the book he didn't like and
he would throw it at me and say, "Why the hell do you carry
that old book, that Communist book? Close my account."
Well, okay. If he would listen to me , I would try to
explain to him that a bookstore cannot censor the public's
thinking. It cannot censor a writer's writing. A book-
store is a place where the community can find an exchange
of ideas. If you've got a better idea, you write it.
Publish it. We'll sell it. But you've got to give each
a chance for the public to make up its own mind. That's
my theory of what a bookstore of our type was. T can
imagine a bookstore that's run as a little personal shoppe
by a person who likes to sell the books he likes. I agree,
He has a right--and a duty, perhaps in his own mind--to
sell only the things he likes and the ideas he likes to
propagate. But a general community bookstore such as the
Pickwick stores have always been, I don't think has a
right to do that. And I have been taken to task for sell-
ing anti-Semitic books by the same organization to which I
have made contributions--and still do, over many, many
years — for fighting anti-Semitism. And I have to explain
to them that the book that they were complaining about was
definitely anti-Semitic, that I got no pleasure out of
selling that book, but as a community bookstore, I felt
it was proper — not only proper, but almost necessary--for
me to stock that book. It certainly wasn't for the fact
that I might want to make a few extra dollars out of that
particular book, because it never did sell that well. The
amoxint of money involved was minimal.
GARDNER: What book?
EPSTEIN: There again, I can't flick it off my memory
right like that. I'll think of it. [Iron Curtain Over
America by John Beatty] And I explained to Mr. [Milton]
Senn, who was at that time with the Anti-Defamation League —
poor chap, he just recently died — that in my mind it would
be better if a person who wants this particular book would
come into a store like ours and buy it and see other books
that might be more enlightening than to go to that character
who had bookstores. Smith, that preacher . . .
GARDNER: Gerald L.K. Smith.
EPSTEIN: . . . Gerald L.K. Smith's store and find nothing
but anti-Semitic literature in there. And that gave it a
sense of proportion. Well, he didn't particularly follow
my theory, but I convinced him that he had no right to
complain about me selling that book because in my position
I could not exercise a censorship of what I would think
would be the community thinking.
The surprising thing about censorship is that men who
are very human in every other respect, and would complain
about censorship no end, and fight to their death prac-
tically would come in and say, "Louis, why do you handle
this fascist book?" And they'd take the book and literally
throw it out, throw it either at me or at the counter. I
mean, they wouldn't make any attempt to hurt me. And they
were people that I knew, who had been customers of mine
for many years. And I would say to them frankly, "Look,
you SOB, if you want to be a censor, get the hell out of
here." Some of them I knew well enough to talk to like
that. I said, "You have no right to complain because I
sell that book. I sell the books you like, too, don't I?"
During the height of that type of thinking we had
many cases. One particular case I may have mentioned is
where a group of three youngsters came in. They were Birch
Society supporters. And a certain paperback came out
against the Birchers--! can't recollect its name now--
and they were incensed over the fact that various stores
were handling it. And so a group of three youngsters
came to me . . . . Oh, Birchers are fantastic letter writers,
They're threateners. Most of the time they won't sign their
name. Anyone who sent me a letter with their name signed to
it, I personally answered it, explaining my position. Once
in a while I got a nice letter back telling me, well, it's
very clear thinking but they still didn't agree. Anyway,
they were by no means fair about it. Well, this group of
three youngsters came in, and they complained about that
particular book. And they explained to me that they had
already visited the wholesale house for paperbacks and
that they were going to drop it because of the pressure of
Birch. They had visited the May Company, and May Company
was going to drop it. They visited another department
store, and they were going to drop it. Department stores
are extremely sensitive to any type of criticism. As
regards that, they have no backbone whatsoever. I mean,
if they want to sell something, there's no reason why they
should be pushed into a corner by some group or this group
or that group. At any rate, the youngsters came in and
explained all that to me, that they had succeeded in do-
ing all this and would I do the same. I said, "No, I will
not do the same." And then I proceeded to give the three
of them a long lecture of why I would not do the same, why
our store could not do the same, and why I personally thought
that they were totally mistaken in asking me to do the same.
I explained to them the principles of freedom of speech and
that we were handling two or three books that came out at
the time which were Birch books--very severely criticized
by the other side for handling them--and that there's no
reason that they should not take their chances in the
marketplace of ideas, as any other idea. If you've got
a better idea, then people will follow it. And I explained
to them of the censorship cases that had happened in the
early days of the formation of the country. I explained to
them of the article about free speech. I think I left an
impression with those youngsters. I could see the attitude
on their face was not as antagonistic and aggressive and
holy as it was when they walked in. And to their credit,
they politely thanked me for listening to them, and I
thanked them for listening to me . I said, "You boys are
young, and you should study this issue to a degree greater,
perhaps, than has been called to your attention. If the
censorship could work both ways — if the extreme left
were. ..." The fact that they themselves were able to
publish their books in which they say there's a conspiracy
against them; the conspiracy has never bothered to censor
them. VThy should they act in reverse?
Anyway, I must have given a good talk, because I know
that several of my clerks had gathered around to listen all
through this. They said, "Mr. E, that was a damn good
talk." I was very serious about the issue. I thought to
express myself to youngsters. I gave them a good deal
more time than I might have to an older person who might
have wanted to give me an argument. But meet those three
youngsters on the street, and you'd take them for just
average, good American youngsters. They had been sold on
the idea that the country was being run by Communists for
Communists and nothing but Communists, all the way up to
the top. At that particular stage, I don't think the liberal
community was that strong.
GARDNER: We haven't talked about your political affiliations
EPSTEIN: I don't have any political affiliations in the
sense that I am a straight party man. I register as a
Democrat, but I would just as often vote for a good Repub-
lican if I think he's a better person. I think the party
labels are in many instances misleading. And I think a
party label will very often push a good man into doing
bad things really against his own good thinking because
he feels he has a certain loyalty to a party. If our
two-party system was that strong in this country, it
would have to be subject to more criticism in Congress
on a party basis. We would have to adopt the British
type of rule. If they lost a vote of confidence, they
were out. Under our system, which does not provide for
that, in some ways it works at a disadvantage. Of course,
no one can gainsay that our government has probably stood
the test of time as well as any government in Europe. It
doesn't always work out the best, but on the whole I guess
it is the best. But I think too many people are befogged
by party labels. I don't agree with that.
GARDNER: So you've never been active for one party or
EPSTEIN: I've never been active. I've sent money to
candidates. I suppose you would call me a supporter of
liberal candidates. By the same token, I can criticize
a liberal candidate if he's a weak person. After he gets
elected and doesn't get the job done, there's no reason to
reelect him because he happens to have a liberal label.
A lot of liberals, I think, are not self-critical about
the representatives we send to certain elected institu-
tions. The tendency of a label is to make everybody run
as a bunch of sheep and to follow the label rather than
their good sense. I take my liberality with a large
grain of salt, knowing the liberals are just as human
as nonliberals. Morally, I think [that] they're probably
not any better. Their standards initially might be
higher, but I think they're just as liable to tempta-
tion as anyone else. And I'm old enough to know that
people are tempted at certain times in their lives, cer-
tain situations, either by actual money or by power or by
glory or by the success syndrome.
I totally believe that human nature being what it is,
we will never have a perfect government. There's no such
thing as a perfect government. I can't conceive of it,
and I don't think anyone else can. It can't be achieved
by party labels. It can only be achieved by individuals.
And I think a good individual, no matter what his party,
in a powerful office can exert more good than the party
can: a strong man who lives by principle, who knows what
is good and then tries to attain that good. And I think
about as close to a person as I can think of is— and I
still call him Governor Warren — Chief Justice [Earl]
Warren. Not that everything he did necessarily was of
the best, but of a person with a party label, supposedly
Republican, I think his theory of justice, his theory of
government, is closest to my way of thinking than any
other before or since. On the other hand, I think
a [Franklin D.] Roosevelt served a purpose at the time,
but I think he served too long. I think the country
would have been far better off if he had not been elected
the last time.
I think a lot of politicians happened to get into
situations, a lot of presidents got into situations over
which they had no control, and suffered because the events
were such that they overwhelmed the country and they over-
whelmed the man--like the Depression. [Herbert] Hoover
was a good man. I think he might have been an excellent
president. But I think he just came in at an inopportune
time for himself. No man at that time could have done
well--let's put it that way.
My politics are very simple. I have friends who
get all excited about elections, and I sometimes get ex-
cited about elections. There are certain people I would
hate to see in office, and there are some in office now
who I hate to see there. But on the other hand, look,
they were elected by the populace, and the populace will
eventually become disillusioned with them. These are the
risks we have to take in a popular form of government, in
a democratic form of government, a republican form of
GARDNER: We have a little bit left on the tape, so I'll
follow this line before we go into something else. What
about local community politicians, people like city
councilmen that you've had to deal with?
EPSTEIN: Well, we've had some good men, some very poor
men. I think we have a good man in office right now
[Mayor Tom Bradley] . His predecessor, I never did like.
He was a snide person.
GARDNER: You're speaking of [Sam] Yorty.
EPSTEIN: Yes. He attempted to degrade everyone who was
against him. He had a way of remarking about people which
was devious in a sense that he would say something which
was not of itself bad, but which you knew that he meant to
say for a denigrating purpose. I think one of my pet
peeves has been the Dodger Stadium affair. You know,
for that reason I've never been to Dodger Stadium, even
though I've been invited to go free. People have offered
the tickets to go there, and I just won't go. Now, whether
I'll continue to be that obstinate, I don't know. But I
think that was a scandal that should have been dug out and
dug up. In my own mind I'm convinced Norris Poulson prob-
ably might have been — I'm not sure that he was paid off,
but he later admitted that there was quite a bit of hanky-
panky going on. Those were the exact terms that he used.
But he was determined to get a baseball team for Los Angeles
at any cost. Well, the stupid person--in my mind he was
stupid. I think the Dodger people were so anxious to get
out of Brooklyn that they would have given anything to
come here, that we did not have to give them a ball park
and build roads for them and give them all that very
valuable land. If it could be used for a ball park, the
city could have used it for recreation for its own citizens,
if not for other things. Now, they need land for this thing,
they need land for that thing--for storage warehouses and
one thing and another--and the city has to go out and pay
millions of dollars for land. And here they gave them
excellent land. Of course, it might have cost money for
the city to grade it and that, but they did spend the
money anyway. You know, when they say that the city spent
X number of dollars, I estimate in my own mind that what-
ever figure they use as x, the total expense was probably
5x, because of all the necessary things they did for pre-
paration--the boulevards they built to get to the ball
park, the off ramps that they made. Well, fine, it's nec-
essary. But if somebody comes in and wants to do it as a
private enterprise, what is the city getting out of it?
He has a very successful operation, but the city gets
nothing out of it. They've got a little bit of playground,
I think; and then one other piece of ground that was prom-
ised to the city, I don't know whether they ever gave it
or not. My memory fails me on all the details. That's
one of my pet peeves. [tape stopped]
GARDNER: What about local councilmen and so forth with
whom you've had to work around Hollywood? Was any of
them good, bad?
EPSTEIN: Well, actually, we've never had to work very
much with our local councilmen. They don't affect our bus-
ness in any particular way, except the only one who tried
to actually get into the hair of our business was a man
we knew very well, a neighbor of ours who had a building
across the street--he had the medical building just on the
opposite side of the street from where we were--whom we
considered quite a good friend and whom we supported with
money in his campaign--Paul Lamport. The first thing
when he got in, he wanted to make a Park Avenue out of
Hollywood Boulevard. And he wanted to get fine stores
and fine hotels. So he immediately started a campaign
against secondhand bookstores or bookstores or anything
that didn't suit his conception.
TAPE NUMBER: VIII, SIDE TWO
JULY 2, 1974
EPSTEIN: Paul, whom I knew quite well and Aaron knew
quite well (we worked together on various projects for
the community, chamber of commerce and whatnot) , turned
out to be a very self-seeking person. He had this medical
building; he wanted to advance his property — which we all
do. We owned property on Hollywood Boulevard, too, at
that time. But he, as I said, thought to make it a Park
Avenue or Fifth Avenue, New York. He missed the boat
by forty-five years. He immediately started a campaign
against Pickwick Bookshop having their display on the out-
side of the shop, which had been there for thirty-some-odd
years and nobody complained about it. And he picked out
several shops that were — in the way of drawing people to
Hollywood Boulevard--some of the leading shops that there
are. The Wax Museum, which happened to be in the block
where his building is, he attacked very much. And the
building was owned by a Matt Silvers, who helped support
Hollywood for many, many years before Paul came into the
picture. Paul, I think, was an opportunist. Well, he was
a crony of Yorty. Yorty put him up for council, and he
was elected. And immediately on his election he started
throwing his weight around. But fortunately he was de-
feated the first time around. He antagonized everyone whom
he had to work with, because he wanted to impose only
his ideas. He antagonized a lot of property owners
around there. He was going to tell them what was to be
built on their street and what not. The people living
on North Curson, v/hich ends in a small canyon: he was
all for opening up that little canyon for building. It
was totally unsuited, the street. Curson is comparatively
narrow, and he antagonized half of the Hollywood community.
At any rate, there was an example of a man who had no busi-
ness in politics. He never should have been elected. All
he saw in politics was to gain ends that would be beneficial
to him and to people around him. That is the kind of local
politics that I will fight against. Most of the time, we
take a moderate view of the man who is our councilperson.
GARDNER: And have very little dealings with him?
EPSTEIN: No, except as supporters of the chamber of com-
merce when we were in business and other community things
that we were involved with then. I never directly, through
the chamber of commerce's executive secretary, would have
to approach them, and we became acquainted with them. As
our business grew, we were considered major people in the
community of business on Hollywood Boulevard, so they would
come to visit us, just to be introduced and leave an idea
that they thought might happen, sometimes to talk over
something. We always stated our politics. I don't con-
sider it politics: we stated our position clearly to them,
and if we liked it, we backed it up with maybe a few
dollars from time to time when it needed it. If it was
a candidate that we thought was admirable, we helped with
money--which is as I think every good citizen would and
should, considering that costs of campaigns are so fan-
tastically high now. Everybody seems to think that the
more money they spend, the more successful they will be
in their election. I can assume that some money is ab-
solutely necessary now with the days of widespread communi-
GARDNER: You mentioned before a case having to do with
EPSTEIN: Well, that was a purely almost personal thing
as to the Pickwick. We had a bookkeeper who just took
advantage of our lack of following our own rules, a dis-
regard of our own rules. The chap's name was Joe Herman.
We hired him as a bookkeeper, and we thought he was an
excellent bookkeeper. He was very willing to do whatever
we asked of him, had figures ready for us whenever we
wanted them. He was very pleasant, and we got very well
acquainted. We'd eat together two or three times a week,
eat our lunches together. But here again, if you don't
know a person's background, you really can be seriously
hurt. The people whom we inquired of when we hired him,
where he worked before, gave him an excellent recommendation,
But we learned later why. At any rate, one January fifth
or sixth or seventh--! don't know the exact date; he used
to come in early to open the store and go to the safe and
count the money and so forth — he wasn't there. We looked
where the money was supposed to be, and it wasn't there.
And we started looking around for other things, and they
weren't there. At any rate, we discovered that the man
took off with a woman--although he had a wife and a number
of children--and that by the best of our accounting he
absconded with about $35,000 in cash. And he did it this
way: during the Christmas rush, we were all so eager to
work hard and make sales, we neglected to watch our bank
balances and bank deposits. He would deposit the checks,
but not the cash. Well, between about the fifteenth or
twentieth of December and fifth of January, a lot of actual
cash comes through that cash drawer, and that's what he
took. Then he destroyed all the cash records and things
like that. The actual amount probably might have been
higher except we had no other way to check the accounts
absolutely. We had our cash register tapes, and we had
our checks, and we took the difference between. But there
are other areas which he could have gotten. Then we found
that he had made entries in the books previously. He was
a very clever guy — he did it very cleverly — but he was
eventually caught. We had a hell of a time proving a
case against him. It was only because I had kept a daily
record that he gave me each day during the course of the
Christinas business, comparing Christmas day by day to
the year previous. And he would give it to me on little
yellow slips the size of a three-by-five card, which at
the end, when they got the final results for the year, I
should have thrown away. But for some reason or other,
I threw those daily slips into [a drawer] . I must have
been changing clothes and I needed a new handkerchief;
these might have been in my back pocket. I just threw
them down, and they got into that drawer. And I dis-
covered those slips six months later during the time when
our case looked very doubtful and the district attorney
told us it was doubtful. He almost was on the point of
GARDNER: Why was it doubtful?
EPSTEIN: Because bookkeeping cases are extremely hard to
prove to a jury. We had no original records. He destroyed
them. All we had was the cash-register tape and our bank
deposits. He didn't think that the jury would go for that.
But when I discovered those slips in his handwriting, in
which he said, "This is what we took in," then it verified
the cash-register tapes. They could say somebody could run
a tape off, set the register to run a tape off, which he
was trying to say. So when I found that, I called the pros-
ecuting attorney and I told him what I found. He said,
"Bring those down right away. [claps hands] This clinches
our case." And sure enough, it did. Oh, they tried every
which way. He tried to say that Stackhouse — our manager--
and I kept a duplicate set of books for tax purposes to
cheat the income tax people, tried to say that Stack and I
stole the money. There wasn't a thing that he wouldn't
try to do, but of course, he v/as very evasive on the stand.
Well, he was convicted. And he appealed the case, and he
was in jail because he couldn't raise bond. Well, some-
body furnished bond for him. And while he was out on appeal,
he got another job and did the same damn thing. He's never
been found since. He ran off. When he knew that his trail
was getting warm, he ran off.
GARDNER: That's incredible.
EPSTEIN: That is_ incredible. They've never found him. A
very smooth talker and a very likable guy. He'll do any-
thing for you.
GARDNER: Were there any tidbits like this that happened
with other bookshops around town?
EPSTEIN: Oh, we've had dishonest employees who've gotten
away with $1,000, $1 , 200--branch managers. Yes, those
things have happened to other shops. It happens in every
type of business. Sometimes a good man, for some reason
of pressure or something, will go sour all of a sudden,
and he'll almost compel himself to do something--not be-
cause he wants to, but because he feels he needs the money
to defend himself against something or whatever purposes.
Human nature's a peculiar thing. Many good people are very
often forced into situations in which they have no control
over their actions. They really don't want to do it; they
know it's wrong; they don't want to do it. But they feel
compelled to do it. Maybe they get in a bad social circxim-
stance in which money might buy them out or give them
temporary relief. Sometimes they do something wrong and
are blackmailed into various things. I think most crimes
are committed — that type of crime--because the money's
right there in front of them; and they just think, well,
they'll outsmart the other person. And many of them just
take the money and run — without a plan. This man had a
plan, and we've had other bookkeepers who've gotten away
with minor amounts of money. But when you meet them
later and ask them, "Why do you do it?" (It just happened
to me.) "Well, I needed some money." I said, "Well, what
did you need it for? Why didn't you ask me for some money?
You know my door's always been open for a hundred, two
hundred sometimes, when one of my employees gets in a
jam--or even more." But, well, he felt it wouldn't be
the right thing or he didn't want to confide in me or
whatever. That's the type of thing that happens.
GARDNER: Maybe this would be a good point to talk in a
little detail about some of the Pickwick employees. Last
time we talked about Stackhouse to some degree, and in
talking about Hecate County we mentioned Herman Mann.
Maybe you'd like to talk about him in more detail, describe
EPSTEIN: VJell, I think I mentioned Herman Mann before.
Herman was probably the nicest person whom we ever met,
in the sense that he was very cooperative, very con-
scientious, very honest, very mild-mannered--almost
saintly, in a sense — and extremely loyal. Now, he
worked, as I mentioned, with Abraham and Straus in
Brooklyn. And he became a very good friend of the
family, in every sense. We included him in almost
every family affair that we've had.
But he would not take responsibilities. He would
not assume responsibilities. He was unable to tell any-
one else to do something. Whether it was fear--I suppose
it's a type of fear — of antagonizing anyone, but he would
rather do some things himself. And for that reason he
never was pushed up into higher ranks of the business.
And he was satisfied. He knew it. He was satisfied to
be in the position he was. He was one of our senior
clerks. We gave him as much responsibility as we thought
he could stand, or that he wanted. And he had the respect
of everyone he ever came in contact with. He would go to
great lengths to seek out a book for a customer. On his
days off he would go around looking for books that his
customers asked him for. And very often he'd run across
some very hard-to-find things. The poor man developed a
bad heart. Ann thinks that he must have had rheumatic
fever when he was a youngster because he never was a
person of great energy. And he died — about five years
We had a number of other employees who were interest-
ing in the sense that they were good book people or had
other characteristics. Ben Latting, who has been with
the company for a great many years, is an excellent book-
man. He, too, for years fought off responsibility because
of his temperament. It was a different type of temperament
from Herman Mann, much more forceful and much stronger.
But because of his belief that no man should govern another,
for that reason he wouldn't take responsibilities to tell
people what to do and see that they do it — and suffer the
consequence if they didn't do it. Of course, responsibility
gives you a certain authority to use it. But lately he has
turned around a little bit. He's still with the company.
He's a very fine person but hard to warm up to. He
doesn't warm up to people. People think that he's aloof,
and in some ways he is. But a very good bookman--he knows
his books thoroughly. He's been a good employee to the
GARDNER: How long has he been there?
EPSTEIN: Oh, he worked downtown for the Argonaut with
Ben for a great many years. Altogether, he's been with
the Pickwick at least twenty-five years.
Guy Thompson has been with Pickwick a good many years
and is now one of the managers of the store. Reliable
and resourceful. He is of Greek origin. Good bookman,
but has to work under a very restrictive system for a
Lloyd Harkema has just retired. We went to a
dinner v/ith him. All the group around the Pickwick
wanted to give him quite a nice dinner or luncheon or
whatever, but he wouldn't go for it. He insisted, no,
he'd rather go individually to lunch with others from
time to time. He was a very good employee in many ways.
Lloyd is the kind of a guy who wants to be too good to
too many people — or good to everybody, I should say, which
is difficult to do, [and] which got him into a good many
difficulties, not great difficulties but sometimes em-
barrassing situations because so many people whom you
meet are out to take advantage of you. And a great many
people did take advantage of Lloyd. He was almost naive
about certain things. But he meant very well, and he was
very loyal to the shop. He always tried hard to make as
many good sales as he could, and he did. And he was able
to handle situations sometimes, assuage a customer's anger
or take over a situation that was turning bad with some
clerk who was being obstinate or whatever. (The customer
becomes angry, you know. It's a two-way deal. Sometimes
the customer becomes obstinate, and if the clerk becomes
obstinate at the same time, you're in trouble. The theory
I used to try to propound to my people: "When this
guy's hot, you stay cool" — which is a good theory, if
you can control it to some extent.) But Lloyd on the
whole was an excellent employee, and Pickwick, I think,
is going to miss him, miss him in the sense that he lent
a certain amount of personality to the store. He knew
so many people individually. Now the only person left
who's been there any length of time, who works on the
floor, is Ben Latting. And Ben is not the outgoing type
that Lloyd was. However, I'm sure Pickwick will survive.
GARDNER: What was Lloyd Harkema's background?
EPSTEIN: He came from New England. He came to us after
army service. He had attained the rank of a captain. He
tried selling insurance, and he tried working as a detail
man for some large grocery company, I think, or Standard
Brands or something like that. But he didn't like it, or
for whatever reason he left them and came to Hollywood, I
think, with the idea of becoming an actor. Especially
people just out of the army, they build up these things.
But he always was a visionary of one kind or another. He
came in and asked for a job, which we gave him. He liked
the job. But then later on he studied acting, and later
on he studied other things. But apparently he found out
that he wasn't suited for it, and he was smart enough to
maintain his job with us while he was trying other things
He tried being an agent for a while. But those things
just weren't for him; he just didn't have the total back-
ground, the total personality for it. So he always came
back to the book business. Then he decided, well, he'd
better stay with it now. He got those other things out
of his system. He became a good bookman. He had an
excellent memory for people and faces and their back-"
grounds; and very often, with my horrible memory for
names and faces, I would use him as my tool. We developed
a code that if I'd give him a certain kind of a nudge, he
knew to look up and tell me who was coming. [laughter]
I would know the person, I would converse with him, but
I would be darned if I could remember the name. I would
remember what they bought, the kind of books they collected,
but I couldn't remember the name. And I will think of it
Oh, I could describe many other people who worked
for us, but I don't know if they'd be of any special in-
terest to anyone. There's a certain attraction about a
bookstore that brings a type of person--sometimes the
rebellious type who can get lost in books, who can't
maintain a job anywhere else, in the sense that the
discipline of a bookstore is different from the disci-
pline of an office or the discipline of a factory. They
can forget about discipline when they're thinking of the
books they're selling, the ideas. We had people who were
so in love with books that they couldn't do their work.
There's a chap who now works for another bookstore
[Tony Russo]--whom I happened to bump into, as a matter
of fact; I went into the store he works at just purpose-
ly to see him. He's an excellent bookman. I'm speaking
of the days when we had problems with him. He would
never be available to do the work of a bookstore. He
would always have his nose in a book or a periodical or
a piece of paper. He could not resist the reading of
type. He told me the other day--there was a third per-
son there, and I mentioned to that third person that my
biggest problem with so-and-so is that I couldn't get him
to get his eyes off type, that it was an attraction he
couldn't resist. It could be anything. This little piece
of paper here, or any other. He told me, "You know, Mr. E,
my wife complains about this very same thing. I'll be sit-
ting at the breakfast table, and I'll read all the things
around the boxes of the breakfast food if there was noth-
ing else to read." But he's an extremely intelligent guy,
and I think he's overcoming that to quite a degree. I
think he's disciplined himself. But can you imagine that
that was the only thing I could find wrong with the man?
But it was a terrible thing that he became, in a sense,
almost useless to us because of that. And we tried to
break him of that habit. He knew that he was wasting
half his days. But we would give him a box of books to
open, and he would have to find out exactly what each one
was about--which was great if there wasn't other work to
do. But he would never have an opportunity to use that
knowledge in the store because he would never find time
to wait on the customer.
Then v;e had the usual number of failures and people
who were this, that, or the other. We had some people
whom we had trouble with because they were on drugs, which
we didn't know for some time, [and] a number of Hollywood
people who wanted to make Hollywood and couldn't, which
is inherent to the community.
GARDNER: Well, when you had the secondhand shop, people
like Bennett and Marshall and so on passed through. Were
there any later during your new-book period who moved on
to their own shops?
EPSTEIN: No, Bennett and Marshall, I think, were the
last of those who came and later opened their own shops.
Marshall worked for me ^^7hen I was still on Eighth Street.
We hired Bob Bennett when we first opened Pickwick on
Hollywood Boulevard. They were much too high caliber for
the jobs that we had to offer at that time. Had they
come at their age after we'd established the Pickwick,
where we could have used the qualities they had to a
greater degree, I doubt whether we could have retained
them, because I think their ambition was quite high and
their capabilities were quite high. But this was during
the Depression years, and they were capable people holding
down very minor jobs. Of course, they were both much
younger. They were both very young, as we all were at
that time. When Dick Marshall worked for me, I think,
well, I might have been a year or two older than he,
because he was not. ... I don't recollect how old
Dick was when he died. At any rate, Dick worked for
us for a while, then left and went into buying and sell-
ing of books. Then he went to work for Dawson. And later
on Bob Bennett worked for Dawson.
They came up at a very fast pace. They were very
fortunate. They found one or two customers who were very
wealthy, who took a great interest in their becoming a
success. They backed them with either buying a lot of
things from them from time to time, loaning them money
to buy larger libraries than they could afford, and
introduced them to other wealthy people. One of the
women in particular, so the story was told to me, would
hold a salon and have them bring their books, or other
things, and have these wealthy women come in on that
particular day. And they would do their selling act.
They were good salesmen. They were nice personalities,
in the sense they could explain to people how these things
could be handled.
Bob was a very fine person. Dick was a harder person
and more aggressive in the sense that he wanted to make
money much faster than he did, although they did extremely
well towards their later years. But they had a struggle.
My brother tells me--he was right across the street from
them, and he knew them at a certain time much better than
I did during that period--that they were having a hard
time until this certain woman became very much interested
in them and really gave them a terrific push up, which
helped them a great deal. I suppose they were deserving
of it, because Bob probably provided this woman with a
lot of things she wanted and needed. To her, it was a
thing. She was a maiden lady who had to have some kind
of an interest, and books were her interest. She wanted
to spread it. It's a give and take. She got something
and they got something.
GARDNER: There was one name that I found when I was going
through this list of the antiquarians who was affiliated
with Pickwick, Robert Wettereau.
EPSTEIN: Oh, Bob Wettereau, oh, yes. Bob Wettereau —
the poor man has since died. It's just horrible for me
to have to tell you of all the people who died, and they
died before their time. Bob was certainly not old enough
to have died. He died while on a trip to Europe. Bob was
a very fine young man. He came to work for us. His back-
ground I don't think too much about, except that he mar-
ried this girl from Texas, a very fine girl, and they had
their first child while he was working for us. He came
to me as a clerk. He was far above average in intelligence--
far above what the average clerk's intelligence was —
and his interests were much higher and more literary.
He was greatly interested in art, and he had a good
knowledge of art. As a matter of fact, he later went
to work for Flax in Westwood and built up a very fine
business in art books for them simply because of his
own knowledge. Now, what's happened, that department I
hear has gone almost to pot. The last I heard, they
hired a buyer who at one time had worked for us to do
the buying; when I heard that she was going to be the
buyer, I knew that she could not do the job, didn't
have the background involved for it. At any rate. Bob
stayed with us for quite a while. We tried to develop
an art department which he could run, but we just didn't
have the resources for it at the time. And he tried very
hard, and he developed a lot. Then we gave that idea up
and put him in charge of paperbacks; and he did very well
with that--as far as he could at that time. Whatever he
did, he did well. He was a good talker. The only complaint
we might have had is that there were too many discussions
going on when there might have been other work to do. But
that's to be expected of that type of a person. However,
our type of business didn't allow for a great deal of ex-
penditures of time on individual customers. And he is the
person whom Anais Nin became very close with. I think she
took advantage of him in many instances by inducing him to
give her much more space than she was entitled to at
the time and getting him to do things which were more
to her interest than to the shop's interest. In spite
of the fact that she looks like an ethereal person, al-
most to be blown away, goodness, she was a hard person.
At least, she proved herself in dealing with us. Very-
pushy. But that is her nature.
GARDNER: We went through that last time, right.
EPSTEIN: You have my account of what happened, her go-
ing out and taking the responsibility of buying books
for us. That really tripped me up. But Bob left us and
went to work for Flax. He did an excellent job there,
and I was sorry to hear that he died at such an early age.
GARDNER: Any other Pickwick employees you'd like to run
ESPTEIN: There are a few I'd like to mention — for other
reasons than their qualities. [laughter] For the most
part, I've mentioned those that have done well for us now.
Of course, Elliot Leonard, I gave you his background, and
I've told you a good deal about Stackhouse and his service
with the Pickwick. During the formative days of the Pick-
wick, Stackhouse was the keystone of the business. He
carried on for a good many years, for which we're very
thankful. Although he was rather proud of the Pickwick's
progress later, I don't think he completely liked the ex-
pansion and the way it affected him, in the sense that
his end of the business, the remainder business, was
circumscribed somewhat. We got so large, we had to
carry such a large inventory, that the company complained
about it--rightfully. That was his style of doing busi-
ness; it was the antithesis of the way a large company
operates. Whereas we didn't pay strict attention to
inventory figures and were still quite profitable — and
I think the fact that we didn't pay strict attention to
inventory figures in the sense that we would want to
control our inventory and make it as small as possible.
We worked almost the other way. We carried a tremendous
inventory of books that no one else would carry. And we
could rightly be accused of not being overbusinesslike
because of that. It probably would have been more
profitable if we had carried fewer copies of the books
we did carry, and maybe fewer titles. But as long as
the business was showing a good profit, why, I felt--
and he felt--that maybe that's the secret of our success,
by not being too businesslike. And there is something to
that--at least for a business of our type. If we were
selling shirts and so forth, we would have accurate
figures of exactly how many we sell of a certain size;
we'd have to choose at the end. In my buying, I had to
choose for almost 40,000 titles a year, plus all the books
that had ever been published before that were still in
print. I had a greed for titles, you might say. I don't
know what other expression to use. I wanted to have as
many titles as possible — if I thought they were good
books, very often, if I knew there was a demand for them,
even if I knew that they were not good books. They were
not books that went out to make people bad, but they might
have been badly written or maybe too amateurish. But if
there were enough amateurs who wanted them and didn't
want the better books, then we gave them the book that
they wanted. It was not our province to tell them. We
tried to tell them, "Put the two, one next to the other
and show them. This is the better one." Like in the in-
stance of selling dictionaries: People ask me, "Which is
the best dictionary?" Well, you really can't give them an
answer. You can, perhaps, in telling them, "Well, the best
one, of course, is the unabridged." But when they get into
the collegiate size and the smaller ones, it's hard to tell
a person v/hich is the best. Each has some points about it
that make it superior in that particular category to the
other. Some people will buy a dictionary simply because
the type is better; they can read it. Other people will
want to know how many different kinds of entries, and
what type of spelling or orthographies they have, or
what hints they have on how to use words. How can one
tell really which is the best book for the person? Very
often we could, and we did, tell them. That is the reason
we always carry such a variety of things. If I made up my
mind that the World Publishing Company was the best
dictionary, and my customer says no, he wants a Merriam,
I'm not about to stop and argue with him and say, "Look,
you' re wrong. "
I walked out of a store the other day because I
went in to buy something, went in to buy a filler for
a fountain pen. Now, how can you think that two people
can become involved in an argument about a filler for a
fountain pen? Well, I have a Cross pen, and I want a
certain color. And this girl showed me a color which
was a blue-black instead of a black. And I wanted a
black. I wouldn't mind if she had tried to explain to
me that these are practically similar. She thought they
were similar. But she used the term, "Are you trying to
tell me that I don't know?" Which of course antagonized
me. I said, "Look, lady, I'm not trying to tell you any-
thing here. Goodbye." And I walked right out.
But this is the kind of a thing: we try never to have
a person argue with a customer. We tried to have a variety
to show them. But if they chose the lesser one, well, may-
be that's why the lesser one was published. We always
tried to tell them, "Look, never argue with a customer,
even if you know that the customer is wrong. Just say,
'Well, maybe. Maybe you're right,' if the person particular
is adamant, because number one, you're not going to change
his mind if they're that adamant, and number two, why argue
with them? You have nothing to gain, absolutely nothing
to gain, and you'll lose a customer. Don't make it a
personal matter unless he insults you or something like
that." We did tell our people that they should not argue,
but by the same token, that they did not have to take in-
sults from anyone; and if necessary, call me, and if I
can't make peace and they're insulting to you, I will ask
them to leave. And I have done that. I feel that is the
least that I could do to maintain the morale of ray people.
They're entitled to that backing. But I said, "By the
same token, I want you to be extremely honest with the cus-
tomer and tell them only things that you know. Don't tell
them things that you don't know."
GARDNER: One thing that I don't think we've covered ade-
quately is the expansion of Pickwick--not the later one,
but just taking over the saloon.
EPSTEIN: Well, taking over the saloon is--the way we say
that, "taking over the saloon," sounds very funny. I think
the only reason it's ever mentioned is that some people
have written that it's the only time in history where books
have done better business than liquor. It's the same loca-
tion. We were very proud that we could accomplish that
trick. The original shop, as you know, was only twenty-six
feet wide, and as we grew and started developing our stock
of new books, we had to force our old books upstairs and
our remainders upstairs. And the new-book business was
was growing. We were just totally running out of room.
Well, next door, the forty-foot building to the west of
us, the corner, was being operated as a saloon, as a
bar, and a portion of it was a little tiny restaurant.
And the landlord was having a hard time with the tenants,
and the tenants were having a hard time because the bar
was being constantly raided and had a very bad reputation
for the type of clientele it handled. So the bar finally
moved out. The landlord came to us and told us that we
should buy it. Well, we would have loved to have had it,
but there was a matter of money. Finally we worked out
a deal where we could give him enough money to satisfy
the down payment, and we broke through the thing and
created the larger store. It was a two-story building,
and above that were apartments. Later, we took over the
apartments for offices.
That allowed us to almost double our merchandise in-
ventory and create a better mix. We then went into the
paperback business in a real way. We built what was then
the largest paperback department in the city. And we had
to learn how to sell paperbacks. But the involvement was-
it was a real estate transaction which turned out very
fortuitously for us.
It caused a great deal of troxible during the re-
modeling period. The city gave us a lot of trouble. It
was an old building and, of course, not up to modern
building standards. And if you recollect, several earth-
quakes have happened since that building was built. And
after each earthquake the building standards become more
strict in certain areas of construction. Well, we had to
have an entry between the two buildings. And we had a
heck of a time trying to get the approval of the building
department because the building was not concrete and steel.
The foundation was concrete, but then it was brick up above
that. Well, we finally worked out a deal with the city
where [within] that opening between the two stores, which
was much smaller than we wanted, we had to practically
build a separate little construction piece, a separate
little building, you might call it, in that shape. All
around that is concrete and steel. [tape stopped] That
is an archway built of concrete and steel which will
support the building. It's much stronger than the orig-
inal building. We tore out a cement foundation for that
building which was about four feet deep, solid cement.
We had to tear out two foundations of two buildings.
And one of them, the older building--we had a devil of
a time getting it out. Anyway, we had to tear out in
some areas four feet deep of concrete, heavy concrete.
The corner building wasn't as well constructed — about
three feet. And put in a four- foot deep concrete and
steel foundation. And I'll tell you, concrete and lots
and lots of steel to help support the upper floor of
the building. They explained to us the steel prevents
lateral stress. Concrete does not resist lateral stress.
Now, in case you ever build a building, you'll remember
It was an eventful occasion in the sense that it
was something that had never been done — a bookstore
puishing out a bar. And on the boulevard, of course,
it meant that we would have a great big sign. And it
was greeted with a great deal of delight by our customers
when they found that they could have more room to look at
books and more books to look at. You know, book people--
if you had a building three times that big, they would
still look at most of the books in that store. Some peo-
ple will go from one section to the other, and you'll be
amazed what they'll come up with, and they sometimes are
TAPE NUMBER: IX, SIDE ONE
JULY 2, 1974
GARDNER: Now, you have in front of you once again the
list of the bookstores that you compiled from the tele-
phone directory. If you'd like to run through a few and
comment on them. . . .
EPSTEIN: As I told you, I made a rather sketchy rundown
of the phone books at the phone company for that period
in order to refresh my memory about some of the people
whom I knew throughout the years. Now, we covered up
through about 1940, and I see here in my notes for 1941
the Beverly Hills Book and Record Shop at 350 North
Beverly Drive. I remember that shop very well because
I used to drop in there, and I still know the people who
used to run it. Bill Smith, who later on went into the
book business in Carmel Valley up in California, had a
nice store there--which was a curious store in that they
sold books and cakes. His wife was an excellent baker;
so she would bake special cakes for people, and he would
sell the books. And his brother-in-law, Joe Mittenthal —
Joe Mittenthal still sells books, but he's now a publisher's
representative. He represents Crown and Scribner's and
several other publishers in the areas outside of Los Angeles,
practically in the six, seven, or eight western states.
They were good book people, and they were very nice people.
Curiously enough, Bill Smith's father was a very good
customer of mine; he used to collect a lot of books.
And I think the father made some money in the lumber
business, as I recollect him telling me. He probably
put up the money for the first venture, because it was
immediately following the Depression, and they were both
of them young, and I'm positive they never had any money.
At any rate, they lasted there, oh, about two, three
years, and they just didn't quite make it. And I believe
that it was [Walter] Martindale who bought their store
because he didn't want any competition too close to him.
And then he gave up the store. And I believe it's the
same store that later was taken over for a bookstore by
Brentano's when they entered the territory. They had a
store on Seventh Street and then one in Beverly Hills.
They eventually gave it up because they couldn't transfer
the image of Brentano's to the Los Angeles area. By that
time, the image of Brentano's had been greatly tarnished,
because during the Depression they lost a lot of their
stores and it was not the store that people had been
accustomed to seeing, a Brentano's store as of before the
Depression, "all the world's books" and so forth. That's
the history of that store.
And I notice in my notes that I have Fredrick Dahlstrom
on 710 West Sixth Street. Fredrick Dahlstrom later com-
bined with someone else and became the Bookman's Shop. But
I can't recollect the name of the man he combined with.
At any rate, it was a store that didn't last very long.
[bell rings; tape stopped] Then there was Everybody's
Bookshop. It started about a block and a half from my
West Eighth Street store. The chap's name was [Saul]
Elstein — I'm trying to think of what his first name was —
a very nice old man. The name of Everybody's Bookshop is
still going on, and the grandson [Steve] is now running
it on West Sixth Street in downtown Los Angeles. A great
deal of the business is secondhand magazines. I don't
think the original Mr. Elstein' s son [Herbert] developed
it in the right direction. The young man who's running
it now, I don't know how well he's doing, but from my
point of view I don't think he's doing that well. And
Martindale was already in business, of course, on Santa
GARDNER: Which Martindale is that?
EPSTEIN: Walter. Of course, he was in business for many
years before 1941. But he got into the book business in a
curious way. I may have told you earlier that I had met
the whole Martindale family, the three sons and the father.
They were originally in the cigar and magazine business.
They had cigar stands and magazines. They had a store on
West Sixth Street when I opened my first shop in Los Angeles
on West Sixth Street. I was two or three doors away from
their cigar stand and magazine shop, and at that time I
met them all.
Walter broke away from his father's business, one
of the first of the three. They eventually all broke
away. Walter broke away and he started a place on Santa
Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills. But it was also cigars
and magazines. Next door to him was an older woman who
was running a circulating library. It was a tiny place,
and she was getting tired of it and, I don't imagine, made
very much money at it. She tried to sell it and couldn't
find any buyers for it. So she told Walter to take it
and pay her off whatever little he could afford out of
the circulating library business as he made it. That's
how he got it. And then he developed it from that. He
gave up the circulating library and went into the regular
book business. And gradually, along with his magazines,
he established quite a big business. You're aware that
Walter has already sold his business, his four stores now,
EPSTEIN: That just recently happened; it's been verified.
I understand they're already beginning to tear out and
GARDNER: I've heard that. I don't know. Before you go
on to the next one, maybe you can give a little bit of the
Martindale family history as it developed, because I under-
stand it's a curious one — a Gothic one; put it that way.
EPSTEIN: I can't speak for it as really family history,
only as they relate to the book business. I can't cornment
on their character. They were much rougher people than
most booksellers were at the time. Bill Martindale, in
Santa Monica, runs a store. He runs a pretty fair store.
It's not a literary store in a sense. He himself never
professed to be a bookman, but he has people whom he has
confidence in and [who] run a pretty fair sort of busi-
ness. There was another brother — let's see, was it Dick? —
I think Dick. There was Bill, Dick, Walter. At any rate,
there was another brother who later went into the book
business. He had a bookstore on Wilshire Boulevard, not
too far from La Brea, on the south side of the street. It
was also magazines and books and circulating library. He
tried to follow the pattern he knew. He knew magazines
best because he was born and raised in it. Then they
added books. But he sold out and moved up to a place
called Paradise, California. He moved up to Paradise,
California, and I understand he's still running a small
bookstore there. This one that moved up north had an
alcoholic problem. In that way he was an unfortunate per-
son. The father was a rough sort of a person. The mother
is still living [since dead] , is very old, and I understand
she just moved into a rest home or something such as that.
But the family never got along well together. The
brothers had quarrels with each other, and the wives of
the brothers, for one reason or another, never got along.
But Walter and his wife were the most successful ones.
I think Virginia had an awful lot to do with it. I think
she's a very level-headed woman, very practical, and has
a good business head on her. Somewhere along the line
Walter and Virginia made a lot of money. It could not
have been in books. It may have to do with some fortunate
investments, because Walter flies his own plane still. At
one time he had two planes. He had a home in Malibu plus
his home in Beverly Hills at a time when most booksellers
were barely making a decent living — including myself, who
was supposed to be one of the kingpins; v/e were living
very modestly. We had no money for airplanes--that ' s for
sure. And that's about the size of it.
People working for Walter were always unhappy. And
I'm not saying this in any derogatory sense to Walter. He
always believed that if you came to work for him, you
should work just as hard as he does. And of course some
people just don't work as hard as others. Otherwise they
might not be clerks in the bookstore — or a clerk anywhere
else. Usually people who work very, very hard and in-
telligently wind up doing something different from just
selling books for somebody else. Of course, I always had
that tendency, too--I always had that belief, too--but per-
haps I curbed my style a little more than his, although a
great many of the people working for me told me that I was
a driver, and I was. But perhaps I used a little bit
more velvet on my glove. [laughter]
But on the whole Walter's a very decent person. He
has certain ideals, and he lives up to them 100 percent.
If he thinks a thing is wrong, he just won't do it. If
a thing is right, he insists on it being done. Maybe
there's not enough leeway between white and black in his
character. But Virginia's a much more practical person —
she, too, very hardheaded. There were other family prob-
lems in the family — and most families have problems of
which I'm aware--but I don't think it should appear in
anything like this.
GARDNER: Okay. Then you can continue down the list.
EPSTEIN: There's a chap, just for the record, by the
name of O.C. Nielsen, who had a magazine service at 7064
Hollywood Boulevard. He had mostly magazines and did
some research work for libraries. He also had books. He
and I, although we're theoretically competitors, got along
beautifully. He sold out his business and retired to some
part-time business and was very happy with it. He never
had any great ambition to make a lot of money.
Then of course we spoke about Bennett and Marshall,
They appeared on the scene as proprietors in 1942, as a
definite address. They had been working out of their home,
I think, for a little while before that. They built a nice
store — had a rough time, as most beginners did in that period,
They gradually built up a very decent business.
Then there was quite a famous shop in Pasadena, the
Brown shop. It was being run by Lloyd Severe. Of course,
Pasadena's book business, you know, was dominated by
Vroman ' s . Lloyd Severe at one time, I think, worked for
Vroman's.' Oh, no. Brown, Mr. [Herbert F.] Brown, at one
time worked for Vroman's. And Mr. Vroman frankly told
him that he ought to open a shop of his own. If he was
going to have a competitor, he'd rather have a fellow
like Brown than maybe some other upstart coming in who
didn't know anything about the book business. So Brown
opened a shop at 190 East Colorado Street. That's where
I first knew them. They may have had another location of
which I'm not aware. And Lloyd Severe--in 1942, Lloyd
Severe was already running the book department of Brown's.
Brown's went into the stationery business also and de-
veloped a pretty fair business in commercial stationery.
But they never had the success that Vroman's did. Vroman's
cover the area like a blanket. And, of course, Pasadena
was a very social, "in" city. And if you were in, you
were in; if you were out, you weren't quite in. And that's
the position Brown's occupied to Vroman's. It wasn't till
later years that the scene started changing, and the mixture
of people in Pasadena changed so radically that I think if
it was any other store besides Vroman's, they might not
have been doing so well. But I think Vroman's still carries
a great deal of weight, and they run an excellent shop.
They're doing quite well. Now, Lloyd Severe, who was in
the book business about fifty years, was recently honored
by the Masquers. Unfortunately, we had another family
affair that we just couldn't possibly skip on the same
evening. I would have loved to have been there. We
sent him a letter about it telling him. Later, we were
in touch with him, and they said they appreciate the fact
that we did send the letter and contributed something for
him. He did a great deal of work for the Southern Cali-
fornia Booksellers Association over the years. He was
the kind of a guy that could tie a lot of ends together.
And he also worked on the "Cavalcade of Books" TV program.
He was an assistant to Jack Case. After he left the book
business, he worked with Jack Case for a number of years,
helping him to run that program, the "Cavalcade of Books."
Thoroughly dedicated to books, and a very fine character.
His wife, Gladys, too, was right there with him all the
time. But he never owned any portion of the business, un-
fortunately, and I don't know that Mr. Brown ever gave
him too much salary. He's far from destitute. He's liv-
ing happily; there's no lack of a livelihood. But for all
the years he spent in the business, he came out of it with
not too much.
GARDNER: What was his background? Where was he before
EPSTEIN: Well, he came out of Iowa. He boasted about
the fact. And I think Brown came out of Iowa. You know,
Iowa provided a great deal of the immigrants in the early
days for all of Southern California, especially Long Beach
and that area there.
There is one kind of a bookstore that I would like to
mention as a kind of a thing a person with a will can do
if they dedicate themselves to it, and that was the Jewish-
American Bookshop. That appeared on the scene on South
Fairfax in 1942. But the story of that bookshop goes back
much further. I don't know if I mentioned it before.
GARDNER: You mentioned it in a different context, not as
called the Jewish-American bookstores.
EPSTEIN: Yes, as Mrs. Blatt's. That to me was always a
very fine example of a person's dedication to an idea of
trying to fill a need of something that she felt was there.
And she was absolutely right. She succeeded very well for
a great many years in the Jewish-American Bookshop on Fairfax,
was doing rather well; but of course later the mother be-
came sick and the daughter was running it by herself. I
understand now that it's been closed, I think since we
started our talks. And Miss Lucille Blatt — the daughter
never married — is now working for Harelick and Roth, which
is a Jewish bookstore that's a very up-and-coming operation.
GARDNER: Where is that? Also on Fairfax?
EPSTEIN: That's on La Cienega opposite Temple Beth Am, just
below Olympic. That shop is doing rather well.
In 1942 Ver Brugge Books — not Zeitlin-Ver Brugge —
Ver Brugge Books is listed as having an address at 1806
West Seventh Street. Now, that was a separate business
temporarily from Zeitlin-Ver Brugge. You wouldn't re-
collect this because you're too young: 1806 West Seventh
was the site of the Otis Art Institute. In back of the
Otis Art Institute was a large old-fashioned carriage
house, stables or carriage house. Jake rented that and
used the bottom for sales, and an upper balcony--! don't
think Jake fixed up those rooms, but there were rooms.
Now, whether they were originally constructed when the
building was constructed or later, maybe those rooms were
constructed originally for the people who worked the
horses and the carriages. But at any rate, they had that
place there, and they operated from there for many years.
Now, I don't recollect exactly what Josephine Ver Brugge
was doing which was separate from Jake. I think she was
doing periodicals, maybe, because they later came into the
periodicals business. But at any rate, that was that big
barn back of the Otis Art Institute.
I remember one time Jake and I--he had access to some
duplicates from the UC Library at Berkeley. They had a
tremendous number of books stored under the stadium at
Berkeley. Jake had very little money. I had a trifle
more than a little, so he came to me and said, "Why don't
we go up there, buy the stuff?" He'll take the periodicals,
and I'll take the books — which we did. And we got several
loads, great big truckload of stuff. Then, of course,
came the question of what is a periodical and what is
a book. Is a book in series a periodical if it's an
actual book coming out intermittently without any def-
inite publication day? I mean, it's a serial if it comes
in series. Some things are published independently--it ' s
called a certain kind of a series, but it may be one book
in five years, or there may be three books in one year. So
we had to battle that out amongst ourselves. We finally
came to a compromise on that. I advanced all the money,
and Jake was supposed to pay me out as he sold out of
the periodicals. Well, the thing dragged on for years.
Finally I think I got all my money out of it. Jake thinks
I got a little more than my money out of it. We still
argue about it sometimes when we get together. But it
was an excellent deal for both of us. There were a lot of
things in there which I wish I had kept, because some of
those paperbound things later became very scarce because
the editions were small. But that was the way it was done
in those days.
Now, coming into '43, Holmes had now become a little
less active. He still had several stores around, but I
think his years were beginning to get to him. And not
only his years--his personality was beginning to be affected,
There was a little shop opened in the Farmer's
Market at that period of time which was run by a woman
by the name of Deighton, Lillian Deighton. Now, the
one reason I mention her is not because she became a
very successful bookwoman, although she ran a small
bookshop, like all things in the Farmer's Market, on a
very small scale. She sold cards and little gifts and
a smallish selection of books. But the reason I mention
her is she is the woman who did all of the research for
Gone with the Wind. She was working for a studio--Selznick .
She used to come into Eighth Street and bought a lot of
books from me. I got an idea of the type of things she
needed and wanted, and I made a special effort to get them
for her. And it was a worthwhile thing because she had
plenty of money to spend and we could get the things she
needed. She bought them, and always paid a fair price,
and never gave us any problems about offering us less than
what we asked. And she was always very thankful that we
did find things for her. Then when we moved to Hollywood,
this relationship continued for many years. Finally
Selznick gave up the studio, and she was out of a job.
So she came and talked to me, and she said, "I'd like to
open a little bookshop." So I said, "Well, you have more
background and knowledge of books than most anybody in the
book business at the time they started, and there's no
reason, if you have a few hundred dollars, that you can't
gradually build it up." She told me about the place in
the Farmer's Market, and I said, "Well, you get a lot of
traffic." And so she did, and she made a living at it
for quite a while. And then she got tired and gave it
up. But she was the one that did all the research for
the Gone with the Wind picture — apparently did an excel-
lent job. She had a feel for what she needed. She knew
what she needed and apparently found a great many of the
things she needed because the success of the picture was
helped by all of the various sets and art work that went
into it. And she was the one that had to provide all the
books and background material for it.
At that time, Moby Dick moved out of the downtown area.
Strictly for the record, there was another bookstore that
opened to fill a need, and that was in the Jewish section
of Boyle Heights at 2212 Brooklyn Avenue — Solomon's Hebrew
and English Bookstore. Now, to this day there's a Solomon's
Bookstore on Fairfax. It's still in business. The old
gentleman, Solomon, was a very good friend of my family
when they were in business in Boyle Heights on Brooklyn
Avenue. The older of the descendants still remember my
parents. Once in a while when I'm around there shopping
for delicatessen or need something, I'll drop in. Or
around the holiday season I will need some special kind
of candy or toys for the children, and I drop in and say
hello. But they're still operating. They've got almost
everything now, from the tallesin , which means the prayer
shawl, and the phylacteries, which you wear around your
head and your arms. And they go in more for Orthodox
things, that the Orthodox use. They all speak Hebrew in
there. The children were all well educated. I don't
know how they live on that one store--two or maybe three
families. I don't know. Maybe part of them have other
jobs, too. But they always seem to be around. They've
been in that business for all these many, many years. You
can buy Passover wine there, and artifacts from Israel, and
Jewish magazines. But they're gradually shifting over to
things that are non-Orthodox. They had schoolbooks for
the Orthodox and for the teachers. But now I think a
lot of that business is going away because the children
are being given books, and I suppose the teachers are
given supplies. They probably buy direct from the pub-
lishers. But they seem to be doing a thriving business
with other types of things. That's an outgrowth of some-
thing from Boyle Heights. I'm always trying to sell the
story of Boyle Heights. [laughter] A great many interest-
ing, capable, and very successful people came out of Boyle
Heights around that period. I think I mentioned a few of
them not too far back.
Then in 1944, skipping very quickly — I have a note
that Bertha G. Blatt was the name of the mother of the
Jewish-American Bookstore, the mother who started it.
Lucille was the daughter's name. She gave up the shop and
now works for Harelick and Roth. There was an outfit called
Bookazine started up on Spring Street run by a chap by the
name of Harry Dale. He was a flamboyant type of person —
big talker but his checks bounced. I'll say that he meant
well, and he had a lot of family problems. His father was
supposed to be in the business before him, and the father
developed cancer and was a source of great expense for a
number of years. He just clung onto life. Hospitaliza-
tion and medication. He did take care of his father in
that respect. It was touch and go. But his big break
came eventually--! think I told you, I mentioned earlier--
when Mr. Holmes sold him the balance of his stock, for
something like $8,000, after he turned down an offer from
Pickwick; or rather he was asking Pickwick for something
like close to $30,000 and was too prideful to sell to the
Pickwick because he was the kingpin and I was the young man
just starting in. And another thing, Stackhouse had worked
for him, and he just couldn't stand the idea of selling out
to a store where his former employee was now manager. So
he took a terrific loss to satisfy his pride. But by that
time his mind was almost all gone.
That made Harry Dale into a big operator. Then he
started a bookstore on Hill Street. Then he went into
the wholesale record business. And that v^^^as just his big
thing, because he really went out and — sort of a rack jobber
operation. He could really go out in a big way. But
eventually he went the way of all people who operate in
that order. By the time he passed away, his wife in-
herited very little. There's a place called the Bookazine,
and that was Harry Dale's.
There's a place called the Argosy Bookshop on 5505
Hollywood Boulevard. That, too, didn't last very long.
It was run by a musician. (I'm trying to think of his
name. Somewhere in the back of my head the name exists--
Loos or Roos or something like that.) I believe he was a
flutist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. A very nice
man. It was one of those things to run as a fun thing.
He and I got along very well. We did quite a bit of busi-
ness together over a period of years. He would buy from
me; I'd buy from him. When I was in the old-book business,
I bought a great deal from other dealers. I made it a
point to visit them, because they would give me a discount.
Sometimes we would trade for things they needed, for things
that they had in stock, and they would come to us.
That year, also, Brentano ' s opened at 611 West Seventh;
611, if you know your downto\im numbers, is directly opposite
Robinson's. They rented a store there. Karl Placht, who
had at one time run a bookstore in New York, supposed to
be a very fine bookman, came out here and tried to run a
Brentano-type bookstore out here, and it failed dismally.
In the first place, they didn't know the approach, the
type of people they had to deal with, and they didn't
know how to stock a store properly for a western market.
And Brentano ' s had an idea--and this is no criticism of
Karl, because a lot of policies he had to work under were
not his. They were given to him--directives. They just
couldn't figure out the type of book V'^hich Los Angeles
needs. They would send him all kinds of things that he
didn't need, and overloaded him with merchandise that he
couldn't use. In addition to that, he had to scramble
on his own for the things he was getting called for. But
Karl was a good bookman, and he later became a representa-
tive for several New York publishers. He became a pub-
lisher's representative. Let's see, who did he have?
I think he had Dutton at one time and several others,
with whom he had done a good job. Karl Placht had been
a president of the American Booksellers Association when
he was in retail in New York. We became quite friendly.
He's now retired and lives in some retirement village
near La Jolla or in that area. I told you Brentano ' s
also had a store in Beverly Hills.
Joe Chevalier appears on the scene with a lending
library at 239 North Larchmont. Now, Joe is still operat-
ing. Of course, he no longer has a lending library. Joe's
a very fine person, pleasant, not overly aggressive--prob-
ably not aggressive at all in the sense that, well, he has
a small business, he's happy with it, he has no family to
raise, he has a v/ife and they seem to get along very
nicely with what they do. He, too, at one time was a
president of the Southern California Booksellers Associa-
tion. Incidentally, in speaking of Lloyd Severe, I hope
I mentioned that he had been a president of the Southern
California Booksellers Association. As a matter of fact,
I think he had several terms.
GARDNER: \Vhat was Chevalier's background?
EPSTEIN: Well, I don't know too much about his back-
ground other than he appeared and there he was. A lot
of the people, I know something about their background
before books, but a lot of them I just don't.
Now, I mentioned to you the Hollywood Bookstore,
which was directly across the street from the Pickwick,
or almost directly--slightly west. By that time it was
owned by a person by the name of Allan Weatherby. Allan
was a very educated guy — Harvard man, I think — and an
awful businessman. And he was having a few psychological
problems of one kind or another. He eventually had to sell
the business or lost the business. And the name was bought
out by someone else. But now the name of Hollywood Book-
store is almost meaningless, because there are about four
or five stores with the first name — Hollywood Bookland and
Hollywood Book Service and Hollywood this, that, and the
other. But at that time there was only the one Hollywood
Bookstore. In saying that the name is meaningless, I don't
mean to deprecate the stores that are using the name
similar to it, but it has no relation to the type of
thing that the Hollywood Bookstore was. As a matter
of fact, most of them are secondhand bookstores, whereas
the Hollywood Bookstore at one time was the bookstore in
Curiously — sometimes it surprises me no end, in
looking back — with all these well-established stores,
Pickwick was able to prosper, and they all went down.
Some people say that my competition was too much for them.
But I think in each case I can refute that by saying that
almost in each case something happened to the management.
They lost their will, or they lost their mind, [laughter]
or they lost their incentive, or they inherited a lot of
money, or they sold out to somebody who didn't know the
business. And nobody's ever accused me of actually try-
ing to put a competitor out of business. We never even
had the thought. But we worked very hard. We did work
very hard, and I know we worked harder than a lot of our
competitors. Allan Weatherby was hardly ever at his busi-
ness. The only time he showed up was when he needed some
money, and then he'd go and take it out of the cash register
and not even tell anybody about it. Stanley Rose — I already
told you the story of poor Stanley — he did almost the
same. Those were our major competitors at the time. In
each case, something happened to them. I don't think it
was because we tried and forced them out of business.
I don't think anybody's ever accused us of that. Our
policy was strictly cooperation.
Incidentally, I mentioned Allan Weatherby was having
problems. Well, I understand he's since straightened out
beautifully and now teaches at some college--Amherst or
somewhere like that--and is getting along very nicely.
But he was having rows with his wife, and they had a
child. He was going through a period, I guess.
Harry Wepplo Bookstore — I told you he was one of
those who was arrested in the Hecate County case. Well,
he bought out Lofland, which previously had been Lofland
and Russell, a secondhand-book store at 32 West Sixth
Street. He at one time worked for Miller's, across the
street. And I told you the story of Mr. Miller, who had
had a textbook store down near USC. Harry also worked
for Pickwick at one time, which I think I mentioned. It
came about in this way. He was working for Miller's, and
we were just beginning to get started into new books. He
was unhappy at Miller's. As I pointed out to you, I be-
lieve, he was a very odd person, and I don't think anyone
would be too happy working for him for any length of time.
He heard about us going into new books, and he came in and
asked for the job. Stackhouse and I talked to him — of
course, we knew him well because we used to exchange things —
and we hired him. Well, Harry in many ways lacked stability.
He wanted to do everything for everybody, no matter what
the expense to him or to his employer. His motives were
good, but his executions were a total loss. He wanted to
satisfy everybody and give them the best end of everything
out of the goodness of his heart. He was that kind of a
guy. A person would come in, and he'd say, "Well, I can't
afford this." And he'd say, "Well, take it." He didn't
care if it belonged to him or belonged to his boss,
[laughter] Well, you can stand a little bit of that,
but you can't stand too much of it. And his buying was
the same way. He would buy huge quantities. He started
buying for us. We didn't know any better. We thought
that if he bought ten, maybe that's a good buy. But
[with] some things, ten is a huge amount; and other
things, a hundred is a small amount~-depending on the
title. At any rate, I took our whole family to Washington
[D.C.] to visit Ann's people. (She's, of course, a native
of Washington.) And when we got back, Stackhouse told me
that Harry had bought all the remainder of the books of
Houghton-Mifflin's warehouse in San Francisco. Houghton-
Mifflin was giving up the San Francisco warehouse and con-
solidating all their things into the home place at Boston.
And he told me the amount of money involved, and he showed
me the list of what it was. Well, it was the worst batch
of material you ever did see — broken sets, odd volumes of
sets, two volumes, two and three, out of a five-volume
set, and all the things that they couldn't possibly
sell which they left in their warehouse and they had
to dump it somewhere. The salesman--the sheriff of
Petaluma, they called him. [phone rings; tape stopped]
The Houghton-Mifflin salesman was Harrison Leusler, a
very fine man. At any rate, I come back to this situa-
tion. It involved a huge sum, something like $3,500.
And actually, we did not have that much money. Any
money coming in was immediately spent for more books.
You can tie up an awful lot of money very quickly in the
new-book business. And that's what we were doing, be-
cause our business was doing all right. Well, Harry had
bought all these books. Knowing this, I immediately called
Harrison Leusler and I said, "Look, Harrison, I can't
accept those books. Don't ship them. If you ship them,
I'll turn them away. I won't accept them." And then I
told him, "You had no business selling those books with-
out getting a confirmation. Harry is entitled to buy a
line from you, a season's books, but he has no authority
to buy a whole warehouse full of books. In the first
place, that's Stackhouse ' s job because those are the re-
mainders. They're not classified as new books." Well, at
any rate, Harrison said, "Okay, Louis, don't. ..." Well,
Harrison's a very hard salesman. He ' s a nice person, but
he had a hard sell. He tried to convince me that it was
a good buy, but I insisted that he not ship them. We
finally compromised on a deal of about ten cents a book,
and we came out all right on it. By that time we had had
enough of Wepplo. How he got into the deal for Lofland's
store I don't know, as Harry could never save a dime. He
must have had a backer. Who it was I don't know. But
that didn't last too long, and he opened the little shop
in the Farmer's Market, which he ran for several years,
and finally retired. I haven't seen him in years.
TAPE NUMBER: IX, SIDE TWO
JULY 15, 1974
GARDNER: We left off last time in the midst of your
monumental list of the booksellers. I thought we'd try-
to finish that.
EPSTEIN: We were discussing some of the research I have
done from memory and actually at the phone company. About
the only way I could think of to r\in down some of the older
booksellers and get some chronological order is by going
through the yellow directories of the phone company, which
I did on several occasions, until I got tired. At any
rate, I've still got quite a number left. In 1945,
Eugene Bechtold: he's still operating in the social
sciences. At that time he was at 257 South Spring Street.
He worked for Pickwick for a while, but he was overmeticu-
lous. He was a wonderful person--as a person he's great —
but to run a profit-making business, we just couldn't give
him enough time to do the work and classification the way
he liked to do it. And if he was interested in something,
he had to stop and read all about it; and if he found
someone with the same interest as he, why, that was the
end of the day because they would spend the rest of the
day talking. This is by no means a criticism of the man
but a criticism of how a good person can not fit into a
certain type of business. But he's very knowledgeable
and is doing a good job in the business he's in. He
works for himself and devotes all the time he feels is
necessary to classifying his own books of the particular
GARDNER: When I was looking through the notes on the
antiquarians, at that point he was on his own.
EPSTEIN: Yes, 1945 he was on his own.
GARDNER: At that point he was doing mail order.
EPSTEIN: Right. He was doing a mail order business,
sort of, by catalog or whatever. But he had worked for
me at one time. And we're still good friends. Whenever
we meet, we have great respect for each other.
There was a Lincoln Bookshop, which had several ad-
dresses. The last one they had, I think, was on Highland
Avenue north of Hollywood. Now, exactly where they were
in 194 5 I don't remember. They may have been on Highland
near Hollywood. It was a leftist bookstore, extreme left.
They took, of course, a lot of punishment in those days
from the rightist groups and the headhunters.
GARDNER: Who ran it? Do you recall?
EPSTEIN: I don't remember their names now, unfortunately.
Mary Gordon, who at one time worked for us, worked there.
She was a rabid leftist, one of the vociferous ones. But
who actually ran the shop at the time, I don't know. They
were not too far away from us, but we had no particular
contact except that Mary would come in, having worked
for us, to visit and tell us a few things and leave us
some literature. [laughter]
Harry Wepplo, I've mentioned before as being in the
Hecate County case; he opened in the Farmer's Market. He
had one of the small stores facing Fairfax Boulevard. He
lasted until just a few years ago. I gave you a good
background on him.
There was a little tiny store called the Boulevard
Book and Art Shop in the same block as Pickwick was, and
it was run by a chap — well, it was run by a couple; the
name is [Milton and Hazel B.] Goodhand. And they had been
in vaudeville and involved in the theater, that type of
background. They had a little circulating library still
and handled a few other odds and ends. They're very nice
people. Later, Mr. Goodhand went to work for Eddie Gilbert.
They're both gone now. He was with Eddie for quite some
The Abbey Bookshop, which I mentioned earlier, down-
town on West Sixth Street, about this period of 1946 changed
hands and was then owned by a chap by the name of William
Weiss, who had been a musician. And he bought this store
to run. He wanted to get out of the business of being a
musician, but I don't think he ever quite made the change
because the store never was that profitable for him to
give up his musical career. He played with various studios
and other orchestras. A nice man, but he didn't last
long in the trade. I think he later sold it out to
Gideon Herman. Remember, I tried to think of Gideon's
name when I talked about the Abbey before? It's Gideon
Berman, an Israeli.
Then Larson came into the picture, [John R. ] Larson's
Bookshop on Hollywood Boulevard just west of VJestern on
the south side of the street. Very peculiar man, and he
had a very peculiar wife. I guess one begats the other.
[laughter] He was in magazines and then went into meta-
physical books quite heavily, and then in addition, as
I say, research magazines of various kinds, runs of maga-
zines. And he built up a fairly substantial business in
those things that he was interested in. But I would not
consider him a true bookman in the sense that he had an
overall picture of the book business. That has always
been the measurement amongst true bookmen. He was accused
of being anti-Semitic, but I have personally never noticed
it. I visited the shop and I bought things from him, and
I saw no signs of it. But I was told by others that he
really was. He died at rather an early age, and his wife
ran the business. They were both cat connoisseurs. They
had no children, so their living was the bookstore and the
cats. That was the total interest of their lives. She
carried on after his death for quite a few years, and it
wasn't until maybe two or three years before I sold out
that she actually gave up the business. Or it may have
been the year after I sold out, maybe 1967 or '68. (You
see, without being in the business now, time is beginning
to telescope. I never had a good memory for dates. I
have an impressionistic mind, not an accurate one.) She
used to visit us quite often. She paid me a great deal
of respect. She always sought my advice on the things
that she wanted to do. She always felt that I knew every-
thing, which, of course, is an illusion which I try to
dissuade people from. [laughter] But the fact that we
were more or less successful, and having been in all the
different ends of the book business, gave people the idea
that we were knowledgeable of everything. I will admit,
we had a lot of experiences in everything.
There was--just for the record, not really an important
bookshop in the sense that they were a major kind of book-
store--a chap by the name of Rabalette, in downtown on Spring
Street. He handled back numbers of magazines and some
popular books in downtown Spring Street. They were in
business for quite a while, but they were out of the swim
of the regular book business. They dealt with an entirely
different clientele from what other bookstores dealt with —
the Spring Street crowd and the horse-racing crowd and the
gamblers downtown, also the skid row people.
As I mentioned before, in 1946 Brentano's opened a
store on Seventh Street, in the same block as Robinson's,
on the north side of the street. And they tried their
darnedest to project their name into this community. But
they didn't have the tools, in the sense that they never
carried the kind of stock that California bookstores did.
Now, we've talked about Pickwick, the tremendous stocks
that we carried. But there were other stores in the city
that carried major stocks of books--Martindale ' s and
Fowler Brothers, then; in Pasadena, Vroman ' s . I think
all of them exceeded in variety most of the main book-
stores in New York. And of course, Brentano ' s had gone
through the Depression, and they weren't the same people
anymore. So they tried to chain out into California, but
they were totally unsuccessful. They didn't last too long.
Well, they lasted about three, four years, until they found
that they just couldn't make it being managed from New York,
competing with people who had managers on the spot.
GARDNER: Why is there that difference between the western
and eastern stores?
EPSTEIN: In the New York area at that time, I think the
prime store was Scribner's. I think Brentano 's had gone
down. Still, Scribner's would never carry the variety of
stock that, say, Pickwick did. We carried technical books;
we carried metaphysical books. Scribner's wouldn't touch
GARDNER: Why not?
EPSTEIN: There's no accounting for it, except that they
created an image of themselves — or over the years an image
was created for them. Scribner's was a very literary store,
supposedly, and catered to the very highest income group,
perhaps, in New York City. They tried to establish the
image. The image was created for them, and they became
exclusive to certain types of books. With the population
they had in New York, they could well afford to do that,
whereas I think in our community, especially the Pickwick —
and here I go again, speaking about the Pickwick as dis-
tinct and different from other stores--we would handle
everything worthwhile (and, of course, a lot of things
that weren't worthwhile). But if it was a good meta-
physical book, I would want to stock a good metaphysical
book. And we built up a tremendous business in metaphysical
books. Then when we decided to go into technical books, we
decided we'd have a good technical-book department. That,
in conjunction with everything else we were handling —
paperbacks and every other kind of book you could imagine,
general trade books, of course. But we didn't want to be-
come exclusive. We didn't want to become the elegant store.
We definitely did not. It came up one time that the council-
man of our district and a neighbor of ours — I spoke about
Mr. Lamport — wanted to create the image of Hollywood, bring
it back to very high class. I explained to him that you
can't go home again. It's been there; you'll never bring
it back. Besides, times are different. Those stores no
longer exist. Those fancy dress shops that we had on
Hollywood Boulevard, which later moved — well, you couldn't
possibly bring them back to Hollywood Boulevard. To try
to make a Fifth Avenue out of it was just futile. I said,
"I don't v;ant to be on Fifth Avenue. I don't want a Fifth
Avenue store. I didn't start out with that idea in mind,
and I'm convinced that my idea's still the best. No Fifth
Avenue store does as well as we do. Nor do they provide
the service to the community we do."
That was the image that the New Yorkers had of them-
selves. They catered to certain groups. Brentano's, of
course, at one time were very proud of their title, "Book-
sellers to the World," because they had a store in Paris.
That to me was more or less ridiculous. But it made an
excellent title. They didn't have the kind of competition
in New York that they had here when they came out here. As
I said, the store that came out here was no longer an image
of the famous Brentano's store on Fifth Avenue in the twenties,
GARDNER: Could any store provide that sort of elegant at-
mosphere and get away with it? There's never been that
kind of store here, has there?
EPSTEIN: I don't know. I honestly don't know. At these
times, I don't think they could afford all that elegance,
although, coming back to Brentano's on Wilshire in Beverly
Hills, they are trying to do that. I have no way of knowing
how successful they are. I hear one kind of a story and
then I hear another. I have no figures and I have no
certain knowledge that they are succeeding, or whether
they are not succeeding. The parent company is not doing
too well--Macmillan Company, which owns Brentano ' s and
which also owns Macmillan Publishing Company. The parent
company's not doing too well. I have reason to believe
that they're having a difficult time. It's an extremely
expensive location. The stock is limited to a few good
books but not a great deal of variety of a general book-
store. Now we'll have a similar type of competition.
Doubleday bought out Martindale--and incidentally they've
already taken the name "Martindale ' s" off the thing. The
Martindale sign is down, off the building, and they're
tearing everything apart. The whole image of Martindale ' s--
they're getting rid of that as quickly as possible.
GARDNER: Well, we'll come back to that, too. But have
you seen Walter Martindale since the transfer?
EPSTEIN: I haven't seen Walter or spoken to him. I
didn't want to call him up because I didn't think it was
proper for me to call him and ask him certain things. But
there's a good deal of talk in the trade about how the deal
was made. If the talk is relatively true, I think he made
a good deal for himself. Of course, Walter is a very
shrewd chap. He'll hold out until he gets what he wants.
Then several smaller book operations opened in the
forties; in the middle forties there seemed to be a great
deal of activity. There was a rare-book store open in
Beverly Hills on Santa Monica Boulevard called The Folio.
They lasted for several years. The Paradise Book and
Stationery Shop in Huntington Park is still in business,
doing a fairly decent business in their own community.
Spearman's on South Flower Street opened at that time.
They were a Catholic-book store. They were there for
several years, and then they retired. There was a chap
[Diaz-Garcia] , who opened the Hispano-American Bookshop,
Spanish books, at 827 West Sixth. And later he moved to
another location, I think on Carondelet Street, near
Seventh and Carondelet, near the Otis Art Institute, in
that area, near the park. The World News Company came
into the picture on North Cahuenga Boulevard. They
handled some books. Bill Steinberg: he handles news-
papers along the walls, similar to the Universal News
on Las Palmas, just south of Hollywood Boulevard, which
is supposed to be the largest outdoor newsstand in the
world. Harry Dale moved to West Sixth Street at that
time. We spoke about Harry Dale. Two young men opened
a place called Books in Review on Wilshire Boulevard.
One of them has since died, but the remaining partner
still operates it. It's just as you approach Wilshire
Boulevard going north from Virgil. If Virgil ran through.
* Harry Hill and Jack Brown. Hill died. The shop just
changed hands (June 1975). — [L.E.]
you could go into their shops. They do a living sort of
business, in the sense that they make a decent living.
Now, the survivor, I suppose, is just carrying on at about
the same rate.
GARDNER: ^^at sort of books do they handle?
EPSTEIN: A general stock of books, greeting cards, and a
few other things. Coming into 1948, a chap opened up an
office supplies, sports books, and magazines store on North
Western Avenue. [phone rings; tape stopped] Adco--they
were at 1120 North Western — 1120 3/4, to be exact. They
later went into the business of sporting books, books
about baseball, prizefighting, and all kinds of ephemera,
historical items about that; he's been at it for quite a
number of years now and is doing very nicely.
GARDNER: He still does that?
EPSTEIN: He still does that. I'm trying to think of the
chap's name. I did know his name but I can't remember it
now. [Goodwin Goldfaden]
GARDNER: Where is he located?
EPSTEIN: He's on Santa Monica Boulevard now somewhere. I
don't know the exact address. I can look it up. There
again is an example of a person becoming a specialist and
doing well or medium; or like Eugene Bechtold, whom we
spoke about, he creates a little niche in the whole spectrum,
and from that he lives. There again, to digress a little
bit, people ask me, "Are there opportunities in the book
business?" Why, you can start in a hole in the wall or
in a closet in the bedroom, if that's all you have, and
begin to specialize and study your subject. If a person
has the inquisitiveness and a little bit of gumption to
make a start and starve for a few months, maybe he can
gradually, over a period of time, by constant study and
constant research in any field imaginable, create a book
business. And Eugene Bechtold is a living example of that,
I don't think Eugene's ever made much more than a living.
There's one man does that, and Adco does it on sports,
Burch did it on nature books. I know people who buy noth-
ing but fiction and sell to libraries.
A chap named [n.;ucjlas] De Vorss, who had been on
Grand Avenue. . . . What's the name of that hotel, and
they also had an auditorium, near Grand and Ninth?
EPSTEIN: Embassy Auditorium, yeah. You've got a re-
markable memory f because that was popular way before your
time. He had a place of business in the back of one of
the little sections of the Embassy, and then he moved to
West Ninth Street. He built up a business of publishing
metaphysical books. A lot of it was done for the author
at the author's expense, and he would distribute them. If
the author became popular, then he would become their pub-
lisher. And he built up a very good business of it. He
became a widower, and he employed in his office several
women. And the husband of one of the women shot him,
killed him. There might have been an affair, but it was
never proven that there actually was. Of course, those
things are a little difficult to prove. The business is
still being run now by a nephew of his, and it's moved to
Santa Monica--De Vorss and Company. And they operate a
pretty fair business, I think, a very profitable business.
But that was the unfortunate ending of this man.
There was another, more happy, incident that I would
like to mention here about the old secondhand-book business.
When he first moved to Grand Avenue, when he first started
his business, he used to walk by my place. I was on Eighth
Street at that time between Grand and Olive, and every time
he had to go downtown, he had to pass by the store — if he
was going towards the May Company or that area--to get to
Broadway or Hill. One day, I went out to see some books.
I wanted to buy the books, but the man insisted that I buy
his bookcases also. He wouldn't sell me the books without
his bookcases. And they were these Globe-Wernicke kind,
which I understand now have become collectors' items — the
ones that had a glass door that pulled up? The little glass
door pulled up and slid to the back. Well, I was in an
antique shop the other day looking for some books, and I
saw those. And I made the remark that I at one time had
about 200 little sections of those and I didn't know what
to do with them, so I sold them for a dollar apiece. He
said, "Oh, God, we're getting. ..." He had a rack of
five of them plus the top and the bottom, and he was ask-
ing $100 for it. He explained to me that they had become
very rare collectors' items. Well, to come back to Mr.
De Vorss and the story about the man who insisted on me
buying the bookcases, well, he had 100 or 125 sections of
these bookcases. And I had no room for them. He had a
very good library of books, and I just had to buy those
bookcases. I think I paid him about twenty-five, fifty
cents a section — which was cheap enough, I suppose, even
for those days. But I had no room, and no way of getting
them into the shop. Anyway, I had to buy them; I bought
them; I got a truck to bring them in; and there they were
on the sidewalk and me wondering how in the world I was
going to get them into the store, where I was going to put
them. And De Vorss walked by, and we said hello. He said,
"Say, those are nice bookcases." I said, "Yes, they're
very nice." He said, "How much do you want for them?"
I said, "Can you use them all?" He said, "Yes, I can use
them all" — because he had just started there and so forth.
They looked very nice. I said, "Well, give me a dollar and
a half apiece for them." He said, "Okay." So out of a
disaster I made a handsome profit. One never knows. At
the time I was so happy to get rid of them, if he had of-
fered me seventy-five cents apiece, I'm sure I would have
taken it. But that poor man came to an linfortunate end.
The Hollywood Bookstore at that time was sold by the
creditors. They had been there, the oldest bookstore in
Hollywood. They were a little bit diagonal to the west,
across the street from us, about five doors from where
Miller's is now. The building has since been torn down
for an auto park. Allan Weatherby owned it. I may have
mentioned Allan before. He was a Harvard graduate, ex-
tremely knowledgeable in literature, but totally irrespon-
sible. He had no idea where money came from. If he needed
money, he would just go to the register and take whatever
was there for whatever purpose--he wanted to go out and
have a fine dinner or take a number of people drinking. At
that time he had psychological problems of some kind or
another. His wife was a very fine woman, and she suffered
along with him. But they lost their business. A number of
years later, he went back East, and we heard that he
straightened himself out and now is a professor at some
university on the East Coast and living very happily, which
I'm very happy to hear.
Sammy Reiser was listed; he opened a store at 5638
Hollywood Boulevard. That was his final store, and while
he was still proprietor of that, he, as I mentioned before,
committed suicide. Larry Edmunds was operating at the old
Reiser store. I think he had Ida Needham and Milton Luboviski
working for him at the time. They were still on Cahuenga, i
GARDNER: They specialized in film, didn't they?
EPSTEIN: At that time, no. At that time, they had
a general used-book store. The Satyr Bookshop had moved
from Vine Street to Hollywood Boulevard just east of Vine.
They were on Vine Street next to the Brown Derby. But the
location became too expensive for them, and the Derby
wanted it back, so they had to move. At that time I think
Mac Gordon, the originator, had already died.
I think I mentioned Solomon's before. The Jewish book-
store moved to Fairfax from Boyle Heights. That's an event,
There was a little bookstore opened up called the Studio
Bookstore at 1716 North Wilcox. They had both new and old
books. We're coming now to '49.
If you recollect, I spoke of a man by the name of
Dave Kohn, who ran the Curio Bookshop — and the place was
just stuffed with books, and neither he nor anyone else
could find anything — and who had asked me how to improve
his business. And I told him if he kept one and threw out
two, in the proportion, he might be able to create a book-
shop again, as it was purely a storage house. Well, he
finally sold out to some people who renamed it The Book
Center. It was later sold out to somebody else and moved
to South Broadway, and it just petered out.
There was one chap I'd like to mention. He did not
have a bookstore. But he sold encyclopedias, which is a
world apart from bookstores, usually a very hard sell from
door to door. The chap I want to mention, his name was
C.U. Branch. (Now, what the initials stand for, I don't
know. I think the first name might have been Clarence.)
But anyway, he had his offices at 416 West Eighth Street,
[phone rings; tape stopped] C.U. Branch was a typical
example of a kind of bookselling that doesn't exist any-
more, I don't think. They still have door-to-door sales-
men who sell encyclopedias — not from door to door, neces-
sarily, but to wealthy people, fine sets of books. In
those days, people were proud of having a library, even
those who were hardly literate. But if they had the money,
they of course had to have a library full of books; and
they'd buy these finely bound sets, and put them on the
shelves, and enjoy them whichever way they could. Some-
times they would read one. But a finely bound book is a
difficult book to read in the first place. I know people
who have finely bound sets of an author, but if they want
to read the author, they go out and buy a copy of that
book because they're hard to handle.
GARDNER: You don't want to get them dirty.
EPSTEIN: Right, because they get soiled very easily. They're
highly polished, as a rule. At any rate, he would buy books
from me. If we would get fine sets, he would buy them from
We had an arrangement: he wouldn't buy them outright.
He would take a sample of a set of books that I had, or
whatever number of sets he wanted to take out, and he
would try to sell them. And if he sold them, he would
buy them from me. If not, he brought me back the book —
which was a nice arrangement, once you got to know that
he was trustworthy. Occasionally we had to wait for our
money because the person that he sold them to didn't give
him a check on the spot, or whatever. But on the whole,
we got along very well with a number of people who did
that sort of thing. At that time, there was C.C. Leonard
and Grady and one or two others who did that type of
However, the Depression came along, and the market
for that type of book business dropped. People weren't
buying those things, sets for $4- or $5- or $600. All
these chaps were having a very rough time. So they started
selling to schools and libraries. Schools had a regular
budget, no matter how small, and they were such tough
salesmen. Then they switched to things like the World
Book sets, and reference sets, encyclopedias, or sets of
standard authors not in fine bindings--cloth bindings. So
they went ahead and created a modest living out of that.
And a modest living was what most people had in those days.
Some of them didn't quite succeed, and they had to do some-
Then Branch later became a sales manager for an en-
cyclopedia company. Not a major encyclopedia — it was, I
think, the Collier, which was the third-rate encyclopedia.
And all over the years we kept in contact. VThenever he'd
find a batch of good used books somewhere, he would call
me and tell me about them. We became quite close friends.
But he wound up, he got into a deal of some kind operating
a school for GIs . After WV II, a tremendous number of
GIs were either going to college or trade schools. And
quite a few trade schools sprung up to teach these boys
a craft — like watchmaking or the grinding of lenses or
polishing stone. Any kind of a school they could think of,
they started, and these chaps would come in with their GI
Bill money and spend it with them. They became very success-
ful at it until the thing petered out. But by that time,
he had it made.
He was a very shrewd guy. A nice person. Hard sell —
I wouldn't want him to sell me. But with all that, that
was his business; that was his way of doing business. Take
that coat off, and he was a very fine person. We got along
very well together for, oh, twenty-five, thirty years. But
I mention that simply because the type of a business — again,
a person begins to specialize in something. And you know,
I don't know of any salesmen who are going around to schools
and colleges the same way as they did. And I'll bet you
that if a person started out today and did that same thing,
he could probably do very well at it, because the libraries
are more prosperous now than they were then — less prosperous
than they were five years ago, but they still have quite
sizable budgets compared to the budgets of those days.
Brentano's on Seventh Street combined with Gateway
of Music. You wouldn't remember that. A chap started
an idea of selling records the way books are sold. And
he came into the nice Brentano's store on West Seventh
Street, and they started this thing. They also did that
at the Beverly Hills address. But the partnership didn't
last long, and Brentano's went out. Gateway stayed, but
Gateway didn't last too long either. It was an idea that
just didn't take hold.
There was a chap who opened the Cambridge Bookshop,
at 5600 Hollywood Boulevard, which again didn't last long.
Peggy Christian opened at 1071 North Western, called
Christian's Bookstore. I think she was married at the
time, but she ran the store herself. I walked in there
one day — I didn't know her — and I saw this young woman,
very attractive, in this shop that had a lot of dark
corners in it; and I said to myself, "Something might
happen here." I looked around; I introduced myself. She
had heard of me, but she didn't know me. We talked. And
I said to her, "Aren't you afraid to stay here?" "Well,"
she said, "my husband comes and stays with me in the later
hours." But apparently the marriage broke up. She ran it
herself. Then she later moved to Santa Monica Boulevard,
around the corner; and finally, as you know, she's now on
M. Harelick opened a Jewish-book store at 228 West
Fourth Street. But he did not go into the same kind of
Jewish-book store as Solomon's. A much different plane
in the sense that all his books were in English. He had
a broader knowledge of Jewish books, of Jewish content,
rather than strictly as Solomon's were textbooks for Jewish
schools and so forth--although Harelick later carried the
textbook type of thing. It was mostly for the Reform and
Conservatives, which use a lot of English, more English
and less Hebrew. Solomon was the expert on the Hebrew.
Harelick became quite expert, and quite a fine bookman for
Jewish religious books. And he was a very fine person.
He later combined with a man by the name of Jack Roth, and
it's called Harelick and Roth. They're on La Cienega op-
posite Temple Beth Am, below Olympic. Mr. Harelick has
since died, and Roth is operating the business using the
same name and doing an excellent job.
I think that people running specialized bookshops in
some ways do a tremendous service to the community. Whereas
Mr. Harelick one time called me and said that his problem
was that he sold to religious groups and rabbis and teachers,
and every one of them wanted a discount. And he was having
a hard time making ends meet. I told him that as long as
he gives a discount, he was going to starve and perhaps
starve to death, in the sense that he wouldn't be able to
carry on his business; that he must be adamant and explain
to them that there isn't that much Jev/ish-book business in
the city, and he is providing them with a service, and he
cannot afford to give them a discount. And stick to that
policy. And by God, he did that--with rare exceptions,
where they bought a great big lot of books — and his busi-
ness improved in the sense that he was making a profit.
And I said, "You've got to teach the people to respect
you, because you are providing them a service that they
can't get anywhere else in the city — or hardly anywhere
in the country unless they want to deal by mail with a
few stores in New York, which is very inconvenient for
them and where they will get no discount. They'll have
to pay postage. And you explain that to them and stick
to it." And I said, "You might lost some customers, but
you will gain profit on the business you do to much more
than offset the losses you take. And those same customers
will find they can't get the book elsewhere, and they will
come to you, and they will pay your price." He remembered
that, and he thanked me for the advice many times.
We had to learn the same thing when we moved into
Hollywood and we started selling new books. See, during
the Depression we got in the habit of giving discounts.
Well, you had to. I mean, people just came in, and maybe
that's all they had. If you wanted a dollar and a half,
and they offered you a dollar and a quarter or a dollar,
you compromised to a dollar and a quarter. Well, he was
short of money; I v;as short of business. We did it. But
when we came into Hollywood, we decided we just couldn't
do it anymore, because the more people you had working,
the bigger the business got, everyone had to trade with
the boss because he was the only one who could give a
discount. So the first thing we knew, Stackhouse or I
were doing all the selling, and we didn't have any time
for anything else. So we decided we would mark up books
reasonably, as reasonably as we could, give absolutely no
discounts. We never gave a discount on a new book, except
to other dealers and occasionally to a library when they
bought new books. Well, the people who had been accustomed
to getting a discount or bargaining with us, we had to
teach them that this is a totally different business we're
in now; we just couldn't do it, and we wouldn't do it. And
I think that was one of the great reasons that Pickwick
stayed on an even keel all the years. Oh, we had a time
with people. "What, Louis? I don't get a discount?" You
know, they had been getting a discount or bargaining. "No,"
I said, "we're running a different kind of a store now. I
can't afford to give you a discount." Because if I gave
them a 10 percent discount, that was all the profit that I
would make on the transaction.
GARDNER: Let me just ask one quick question. Did Harelick
handle all new books?
EPSTEIN: He had a few old books, as they showed up. No,
TAPE NUMBER: X, SIDE ONE
JULY 15, 1974
EPSTEIN: To back up a little bit to '49, I notice that
I didn't mention Cambridge Bookshop, which opened on
5600 Hollywood Boulevard. That's about a block west of
Western. The chap who started that, his name was [Charles]
Salzman. He's still in business. I notice the following
year he moved again. In the following year he moved some-
where else. I don't have the exact address. But he's
still in business, and he's on Melrose Avenue, not far
from La Cienega [Canterbury Book Shop, 8344 Melrose] . He
runs a small shop, mostly library business, specializing
in English literature.
The name of M.J. Royer comes up. In 194 9 he opened
a bookshop at 465 North Robertson. Later he went into
art books in a big way, selling to libraries almost ex-
clusively, and built up a very handsome business. The
interesting thing about Mel Royer — to me, that is--is
that he was one of my very earliest customers when I
opened on Sixth Street. At that time he was an account-
ant. I forget the name of the firm. They used to get
all the cans and metals from the city garbage collection
department. In those days, you had to separate the metals
from all the other waste. It was a very lucrative busi-
ness for the company, and they fought the combination of
metals and all other waste products that they collected
from the residences. They fought the idea for a good
many years, but they finally lost. Now, of course, every-
thing is collected together. Curiously, now there's an
agitation, because metals are becoming scarce and whatnot,
to recycle all these things, go back to the old system of
having two containers, one for paper waste and other gar-
bage and whatnot, and another one for metals — which I think
makes sense, except that, of course, it would cost the city
so much money to do that. They'd probably have to have two
separate pickups. How they'll work it out, I don't know.
Mel was considered a pretty good collector at the
time that I started. It was curious to find him going into
the business many years later, almost twenty years later
from the time I started till the time he went into busi-
ness. He is a very nice person, and he made quite a nice
success of it. But he recently sold out his entire stock,
which was expensive and valuable stock, to a group of
Japanese who packed it all up and shipped it to Japan.
And what they'll do with it, I wouldn't know — it'll prob-
ably go into some libraries there. But the Japanese are
beginning to buy, as you know, all art forms of any kind.
I guess they needed some art books.
GARDNER: What kind of a guy was Mel Royer?
EPSTEIN: In what sense do you mean?
GARDNER: Oh, just generally.
EPSTEIN: Oh, a very nice person, very soft-spoken, a
straight thinker, a square businessman. When you dealt
with Mel, you were on solid ground. What he said, well,
you could take as gospel. You didn't have to have signed
contracts with him. He established a nice reputation
amongst the libraries. I'm seventy-two, you know, and I
always considered him a good bit older than I. I imagine
he must have been all of five or six or seven years older
than I, so he ' s probably either approaching eighty or in
his eighties. But he became a little bit ill, and then
he had a fall which laid him up for a number of months,
and since that he's been doing very little. Finally,
when an opportunity came, he sold his business. He'd
been trying to sell his business; and he almost succeeded
at another time, but the deal didn't go through. The peo-
ple couldn't raise the money. But the Japanese came along
with whatever he wanted, and they got the whole works.
Cleaned the whole thing up; didn't bother sorting, just
packed it. Another curious thing about it is that his
principal assistant for so many years was a Japanese girl,
[Nakuno Serisawa] . I don't know if that contributed to
the sale or not.
The Spanish Bookstore moved to 629--oh, no, they were
at 629 West Sixth. They later moved. The Technical Book-
shop opened at 726 South Spring Street. I think they'd
been open before that, but they moved to 72 6 South Spring.
They were there for a number of years, then they moved
down to Third and Spring. Now they've closed that re-
cently, and they're somewhere on VJestwood Boulevard, I
believe. They now sell, I think, medical books, too.
There was a bookstore that opened at 628 West Sixth, which
was across the street from my old location, 625, called
the AAA Bookstore--whatever that meant.
GARDNER: That meant they wanted the first listing in the
EPSTEIN: That's exactly it. But apparently that didn't
help them too much, because they didn't stay in business
too long. In 194 9, I noticed a new name in the phone book,
John Q. Burch. Well, it wasn't new, but he'd moved to
1584 West Vernon. And I think I spoke to you about John
Burch before as having become a specialist in books on
conchology. He developed a worldwide business and did
extremely well with it. He's a retired railroad man who
went into the book business. There, again, to prove a
principle, if you have an interest, you can usually build
a business around it.
GARDNER: That sounds like a funny address for a bookshop.
EPSTEIN: VJell, at the time it was a much better neighbor-
hood than it is now. I'm talking about 1949.
GARDNER: I see. Did he remain there? Did he move?
EPSTEIN: He remained there for quite a few years and then
moved his business to his home, which was in the area to
the west of that, the Leimert Park area.
There's a peculiar lady, Miss F. Gertzweig, who had
a shop at 6093 Sunset Boulevard. She sold cards and
occasionally even dresses and one thing or another. But
she had a circulating library and took orders for books
for people. At the time of '49, she was located not too
far from — that studio on Gower--Columbia. She got a little
bit of overflow of business. She was a very loud, demanding
person, but she was a character. She was an old maiden lady
who made her living in her own way. But she used to torment
us no end. She would expect us to mail books to her, mail
them to her customers and all that, demanding discounts
larger than she was entitled to. We used to give dealers
10 percent discount and she always complained, "Well, how
can I make a living on 10 percent?" [laughter] "Well,
it's either you making a living or me making a living."
"Well, you're rich, you've got this great big store."
Ilaughter] But she was a harmless person.
Coming into 1950, Acres of Books — I think they moved
at that time, sometime in 1950, from 140 Pacific Avenue,
Long Beach, to Atlantic Boulevard. (They started in Long
Beach long before 1950.) Acres of Books is sort of a
legendary place. It was opened by Bertrand Smith. Bertrand
Smith had a place called Acres of Books in Cincinnati, Ohio.
A more or less successful bookseller, he was British by
origin. He got a tremendous amount of space, and he would
buy anything and everything and store it away on the
shelves where you had to really dig out things. And
they were all reasonably priced. And eventually, if
you held them long enough, some of those things that
were extremely common and no account became a little bit
more desirable, in the sense that somebody might always
be looking for something of that nature. He built a big
business on that basis. He later moved to a very, very
large store on Atlantic Boulevard in Long Beach. If you've
never been there, it's really a sight. It's a lot of little
cubbyholes. You really have to seek and find whatever you
think might be necessary. I've been there a couple of
times, but it just is impossible for me to look through.
Bertrand was a very nice person--very affable, nice
to talk to. He really had a genuine love for books, any
kind of book. It's almost like [John W. ] Todd [Jr.] of
Shorey's in Seattle. A book had to be preserved, no matter
what, and it was a sacrilege to destroy a book, or not to
treat it with great respect — which I agree with. Every
book is entitled to respect. But if everybody held onto
every book that was ever published, there wouldn't be
enough room in the world to keep all the books. And there
wouldn't be any scarce books because all the editions would
be fully available and there would be no scarcity.
But he passed on, oh, about ten years ago, and his two
sons are running the business along the same lines that the
father had, and they're doing quite well.
Dale's Bookazine had moved to — Harry Dale had moved
to 749 South Spring. He's the chap I told you about that
bought out Holmes when the old man had to close up shop.
Jack Blum opened the Cherokee Bookshop, at 1646
Cherokee. They're now on Hollywood Boulevard, a block
west of Musso's. His sons [Gene and Burt] are now taking
over the business. They do a fairly good business. Gene
now does most of the running of the store. They specialize
in film things. One of the sons [Burt] has gone into comic
books. Another one has gone into fantasy books, science
fiction. And each one knows his area pretty well. There
is also Jack's brother, Harry, who has been there a long
time. Then they have another chap who specializes in
World War I and II books. He sort of parceled out spe-
cialties into his store. In addition to that, he has a
very nice stock of sets, which are becoming very scarce.
Of course, they're now very high priced. But it's not the
kind of a store that I would appreciate myself. Neverthe-
less, it's a good store.
GARDNER: VJhat do you mean by that?
EPSTEIN: Well, it's not arranged like I would arrange it.
It's hard to browse in it. They have three levels. One is
a half-basement, and the third level is sort of a half-
mezzanine. It's a very difficult store to browse in. As
a matter of fact, they don't encourage you too much to browse.
In spite of what I say--that it isn't a kind of a store
I would run--nevertheless it's still a good bookstore.
Jack is a very nice person. He's on the verge of re-
tiring now. He's just hanging on until his sons get a
little bit better feel of it. They're probably waiting
till he retires. [laughter] That's the usual battle be-
tween the ages.
Harry Levinson appears on the scene around 1950. He
has an address at 9527 Brighton Way, but I think he did
business from his home for quite a while. He came in from
New York, a very knowledgeable guy with an extremely fine
collection of reference books pertaining to books--very
scarce bibliographies. He's a very, very able bookman.
I never did much business with Harry because by that time
my biggest interest was in the new-book business. He used
to come in and browse through our rare books and buy some
things from us from time to time. He established himself
as a major bookseller, a national bookseller in rare books.
He used to make his regular buying trips to Europe, all
over Europe, and he's considered one of the most know-
ledgeable booksellers — perhaps, I would say, next to Jake.
But he's a different type of character from Jake — very close-
mouthed. He did participate in the antiquarian bookseller's
group. He just recently gave up that location on Brighton.
Now he's doing business from a very big home he bought in
Beverly Hills. He built a special section of his home for
the books. Unfortunately, within a year or two after
they moved into this very big home, his wife was killed
in an automobile accident. And they had no children. I
suspect that Harry's a fairly lonely person. He was never
a person to make friends, as Jake has and some of the
others. He always stayed pretty much in the background —
which is no criticism of him, by any means. Nevertheless,
that's the type of personality he had. But he was an ex-
tremely able bookman, and in that context he left his mark
on the book business.
I find a note here on Jack E. Reynolds. At that time
he was on Santa Monica Boulevard, at 4561. Jack is still
in business, a specialist in Western Americana. He's some-
where, I think, in the West Valley — 16031 Sherman Way, Van
Nuys. I've never been to his West Valley store. He's
been there for many, many years. He still follows his
specialty — very knowledgeable. He participates in various
historical societies. He's written little squibs about this,
that, and the other. He's active in the Westerners, Los
The Westerners have branches all over the United States;
and even in London and Paris, they have corrals there. They
organize a group of people whose interest is Western-book
cpllecting — books about the West, Indians, etc., etc.
* He has since remarried. -- [L. E. ]
Somebody got the idea of having these corrals, and there's
been a very active one in Los Angeles for many years. The
Los Angeles one publishes a yearbook, of which I have most
copies; and I'm a member of it. I think eight times a
year they issue a little bulletin, and with the bulletin
usually comes a treatment of some special subject by some-
body in the corral whose specialty it is. Some of them
are very fine pieces of research.
GARDNER: It's a historical society, really.
EPSTEIN: Yes. They don't call themselves that, but in
effect that's what it is — but slightly on a different plane.
It's less public than, say, the Southern California Historical
Society. Jack is still active in the business, and he has a
We'll go on to 19 51. I checked over a few of the mem-
berships of the antiquarian group members, and I find the
name of Ernest E. Gottlieb. Gottlieb was a specialist in
music. He died rather young, unfortunately.
Max Hunley appears on Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly
Hills. He had previously been in a little arcade just south
of Santa Monica Boulevard on Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills.
I don't know if you're familiar with that. There's a small
arcade; it's still there. He had a small store like that
in these arcades, and later he moved to the location where
he still is. Just the other day, cleaning out a bunch of
old catalogs — I have catalogs kicking around here, some of
them dated 192 8, periods of that time — I ran across about
a dozen of Max's catalogs. The earliest one was dated
catalog number three, around '30, '31. So for a gag I
called him. I said, "Max, I want to give you an order."
He said, "Louis, that's great." So I told him, "From
catalog three, give me item number seven." He said,
"Louis , what are you talking about? Where did you find
that?" I said, "Well, Max, I found a group of your old
catalogs. How would you like to have them?" "Oh," he
said, "I'd love to have them." So I said, "Okay, I'll
send them on to you." He got a big kick out of that.
GARDNER: What was the item?
EPSTEIN: I have no idea. I just pulled an item out of
it. Things that are now selling for fifty dollars were
listed at two dollars. This is way back in the middle
thirties; that was the time to buy rare books. But no one
had money then. It's amazing. I think I mentioned Max be-
fore. However, Max is of the same era of my career as Mel
Royer. He, too, was one of my earliest customers on Sixth
Street. He, at that time, was working for a stock brokerage
house. And of course the stock brokerage houses were hav-
ing even a rougher time than they are now, and eventually
he lost his job. He worked at something else for a while,
but he was always a good book collector, and finally he
went into the business. And we used to buy and sell to
each other. His people had the Hunley Theatre, which was
on Hollywood Boulevard not too far from Western. He was
there a long, long time. Max was a very conservative
person, and even in those days I think he would venture
in and out of the stock market. I'm inclined to believe
that Max is quite provided with the wherewithal that peo-
ple call "rich." Ilaughter] But we always got along very
nicely. The common gag was, after I opened up on Holly-
wood Boulevard and began to prosper a little bit, he
always said, "Louis, what do you do with all your money?" —
which is still a gag between us. The first one who gets
a line out when we meet.
GARDNER: He's still there on Santa Monica Boulevard?
EPSTEIN: Yes, he's still there. The shop is closed half
the time. He loves to go fishing. Every year he used to
go to Europe. He ' s a great Anglophile. He used to go to
Europe for about two months and go through the bookshops
there, besides taking a walking tour or a bicycle tour,
combining business with pleasure. He had a nice way of
living, just the way he wanted, and he ran his business
that way. It leads me to believe that he wasn't that hard-
pressed for business, like the rest of us were at that time;
that he could do the things he did at the time he did them.
None of us could close up for two months and go traveling.
GARDNER: Did he have any specialization in particular?
EPSTEIN: He specialized in first editions. He went in
the children' s-book market. Western books. Quite general,
rare books .
GARDNER: I made a note — I think we looked through the
same catalog, probably--in that first 1950 antiquarians'
listing they mention that he attended Columbia and the
University of Paris as well as UCLA.
EPSTEIN: That I didn't know, and I'm glad to learn that.
He was a big cut above the average bookman as far as knowl-
edge and background was concerned. That was apparent. I
knew he was well educated, but I did not know that he went
to those universities.
GARDNER: Well, that attests to his humility, anyway.
EPSTEIN: That verifies the fact that there must have been
money in the family, because I don't know of any other book-
seller who had that kind of background, who could have
afforded to go to those schools. Most of us, like Jake
and myself, had to dig in to scratch out a living, and
the same way for our parents. Jake's parents in Texas,
where he came from — from discussions with Jake — were about
on a par with my parents. Our generation just didn't have
the money to send their children to those kinds of schools —
I mean, our parents' generation, not my generation. Some-
times I consider myself a first-generation American; and
other times I'm an immigrant because I came here when I
was seven, and it's hard to identify myself with my father's
generation, which is the real immigrant generation. But
I'm practically raised almost as an American-born. But still
I am an immigrant.
GARDNER: My notes say — while we're vaguely on the subject
Harry Levinson went to City College of New York, which
would put him, I suppose, in the same category with you
and Jake, since that was a public university.
EPSTEIN: Yes, probably. Well, of course, I went to a
university, too, but they didn't have those multiple col-
leges, as you mentioned for Max. Max had real scholarship
behind him. Getting a bachelor's degree was — sometimes we
I mentioned Max, and I mentioned a few of the others.
There was a chap by the name of Roman Novins who was in the
book business for a short time. He had a little shop at
62 4 North Doheny.
Then Kurt Schwarz appears on the scene at that time.
Kurt Schwarz is still in business. He operates from his
home now. I think Kurt always did. No, he had a shop at
one time at 4 50 North Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills. Kurt
came from Germany. He left Germany before the concentration
camp era, but he had to really escape. They went east
rather than coming west, so they went through China. He
lived in Manchuria for a while, I believe, and they lived
for quite a while in Shanghai. His parents were booksellers,
and I think even their parents before them; so he had a
thorough background in the rare-book business. Fortunately,
once you have a rare-book background and get to a place like
Shanghai, with that background you immediately begin to
search for a way of getting into the rare-book business
there. They found enough books, and then from Shanghai
they could correspond to England. So they carried on,
more or less, and finally came to this country. But it
is apparent that they did not lose all their property.
So he came here with some assets, and he didn't have to
start from scratch and struggle like the case might have
been with a refugee. Kurt had a stroke here a number of
years ago, and he still walks with a limp, and one of his
arms still bothers him. Nevertheless, he's still back
conducting his business. He's training his son [Thomas F.],
who, instead of having a classical education for the book
business, studied psychology. I don't know how far his
degree took him--whether he ever took the PhD or not. But
apparently his son may follow up in the trade.
GARDNER: What was his specialization?
EPSTEIN: Well, early books in all languages. A lot of the
foreign rare books. His business was predominantly in very
scarce books for libraries and for collectors. But he was
a very fine gentleman. His wife [Martha M.] is very nice.
r reraeiT±>er we were there one time for a meeting, and his
wife baked a chocolate cake which Ann fell in love with.
And Ann asked her for the recipe, and she gave her the
recipe in ounces of everything, not pints. Everything was
measured in ounces, including the eggs. Ann tried the
recipe, and it came out pretty good but not quite as well
as Mrs. Schwarz's. She was a Viennese cook. Everything
was very rich, but excellent.
Let's see. Borzon Books: it's a shop that opened
at 1624 North Las Palmas. It didn't last very long. I
mention it simply because it was there. Martin Bloch
opened up a little bookstore at 1716 North Wilcox. He
worked for years for the Hollywood Bookstore. A very
good bookman, very erratic. He later was one of the pub-
lishers and the editor of a magazine called One , which was
a magazine for the gay community. I doubt whether that
magazine is still in existence or not. But at any rate,
he's out of that. Where he is now, I have no idea. But
he was a good bookman. You never knew which way he was
going to jump when you met him. But he could sell books,
and he knew his books. He really was much interested in
Brentano's closed up their downtown store that year.
California Book Company, which I mentioned to you was Max
Walker, closed out. Harry Dale moved his Bookazine to
649 South Main. I think Harry used to move whenever a
landlord of his couldn't wait any longer for his rent.
Howard and Reese bought 719 West Sixth Street, which
was, I think, the old Curio, and it became the Book Center.
I think I mentioned that. It's a Miss Howard and a Mr.
Reese. Miss Howard was a musician with the Los Angeles
Philharmonic, and she was a customer of ours for many,
many years. She lived with a friend of hers, a lady friend,
and they were both good book buyers, both of them musicians.
All of a sudden she announces to us that she had bought
that store. And the partner, Reese, is a chap who used
to work for us in the old-book department. I didn't think
much of his ability. At any rate, they bought that store.
Miss Howard always wanted to own a bookstore. And she had
a few thousand dollars saved up, and she put it into that
bookstore — which, of course, turned out to be a disaster.
After two years, I guess, Reese had it all--not because he
took it from her, but because she just didn't want it any-
GARDNER: Why was it a disaster?
EPSTEIN: Well, they just weren't doing any business. She
didn't have any time to pay attention to it. It's the kind
of store that they bought. If they'd bought, perhaps, a
smaller store, they could have specialized--say , she in
music, or he in something else—and they'd have built up
a business. It might have had an opportunity to be success-
ful. But as I mentioned to you, that Curio Bookshop, which
became later the Book Center, was a junk heap. There were
so many books in there that no one could find anything. And
Reese, again, was the type of person who couldn't leave a
thing alone. He had no way of measuring the worth of his
time, in the sense that he would spend as much time
classifying and looking up a book that was on face worth-
less; but no, he had to find out the exact price at which
it was published and everything about it. And having been
as long in the business as he had been, working for us, and
seeing all the books priced, he should have been able to
throw things out, worthless things, and able to price things
right from his head, instead of having to catalog separately
each and every book that came his way. If he tried to do
that for the entire stock of Curio Bookshop, it would take
him five of his lifetimes. He had the same kind of a fault
as Bechtold. But Bechtold realized that, I suppose — and
we explained it to him. He went into his own specialty in
a small way, out of his own home, and did his thing — whereas
this chap, I don't think was as smart as Bechtold.
So poor Howard lost her money, and eventually Reese
had to give the thing up, too. But these curious combina-
tions that gathered together in the book business — simply
because he had worked for the Pickwick, which gave him a
little bit of status. He had worked in the old-book depart-
ment there, and they had met there, in the old-book depart-
ment. But Howard was a very nice woman. I was really sorry
when she told me that she went into that deal. I told her,
"Why didn't you consult with me?" No, she wanted to keep it
private. She was a private person. But later on she told
me that she wishes that she had. But I don't suppose anyone
could have talked her out of it. She had almost a compulsion
that she wanted to be [in business]. I haven't seen her
in years. She's no longer with the Philharmonic. She may
be retired and is living quietly somewhere.
There was an outfit in South Pasadena, I believe it was,
called P.D. and lone Perkins. Oriental books. And that was
their specialty: books about the Orient and Japanese books,
mostly Japanese books. I don't think they had any Chinese
books. And P.D. Perkins had been a salesman for the Sparkletts
water firm. What was the name? It had a different name. The
Coca-Cola Company of Los Angeles bought them out. And he had
been a sales manager for them. Very nice man. But he got
this yen for Oriental books. I guess he started collecting
Oriental things. He used to go back to Japan. He gave up
his job with Sparkletts. They had another name. They had
two kinds of water — Sparkletts and something else.
EPSTEIN: Arrowhead, right. Arrowhead, that's it. I don't
know what happened to the name of Arrowhead.
GARDNER: They're still there. It's another company, isn't
EPSTEIN: Well, they bought out Sparkletts and Arrowhead
combined, and then Coca-Cola of L.A. bought the combined
outfit. They were both competing water companies.
GARDNER: There still are two. I wonder what the second
EPSTEIN: They may use the two different trade names. I
see Sparkletts, but I never see Arrowhead. Maybe in some
other communities, they might use the name Arrowhead. I
don't know. But they combined, and then a local Coca-Cola
Company bought them both. I happen to know that because I
own some stock in the local Coca-Cola Company--which might
do better than it's doing. It was very good, but it isn't
At any rate, he went to Japan and lived there for a
while, then he came back and he adopted Japanese mannerisms.
He used to bow to you three times when you met. But he
was a nice person. What he did, he did well, and apparent-
ly he made out well. They sold the company to some other
people, who are running it, I think, under the same name —
not Perkins, but something else. But I don't hear too much
about them now.
I have a note here that this period of '51, Jack
Reynolds moved to 16031 Sherman Way. I told you I didn't
know just where he moved to. I'm coming to 1952. The
Technical Book Company moved to 353 South Spring — I men-
tioned to you that they later moved to Spring — and Gideon
Herman became the owner of the Abbey Bookshop, which I men-
tioned previously in the history.
Charlie Yale opened the shop at 985 East Green Street
in Pasadena. I mentioned before that Charlie Yale had worked
for Dawson's for many years. He was their second-in-command,
a very fine bookman and a very fine person. I remember when
I first opened on Sixth Street, he came over and introduced
himself and offered his help to answer any questions I
might have, which I thought was extremely nice. I think
I mentioned Mr. Dawson did the same thing. The Dawson
people were always very fine, very nice people, in that
they were always helping the trade. To this day, I think
Glen and Muir are always doing something for the booksellers'
organizations. They participate in everything bookish.
Glen is on the board of Los Angeles Library Association,
of which I am a member at the present time. I have a meet-
ing tomorrow. LALA.
Coming back to Charlie Yale: he left Dawson's and
opened a business of his own; and later on his son. Bud
Yale, came in. Charlie Yale, unfortunately, died, oh,
about five, six years after he opened the shop. And his
son took over and ran it for about five, six, seven years,
and then he died. It was very unfortunate, especially the
son was a very young man when he died. But Charlie--! guess,
I considered him about ten years older than I when I first
met him at Dawson's, But he was one of the good bookish
bookmen, and he knew his business, knew his Western Americana
thoroughly. That was his specialty.
GARDNER: Had his son kept up the business?
EPSTEIN: The son kept up the business on Green Street until
he died, when they sold off the stock. As a matter of fact,
the other day, looking through the old catalogs, I found the
last catalog that was put out after the son's death, to
liquidate the stock. [There were] a lot of bibliographies
that I would like to have now, now that I have time to
read them, just for the sake of having the background
GARDNER: An interesting point, when I was looking through
the minutes of the antiquarian society. . . .
EPSTEIN: He was, I think, the first president.
GARDNER: He was the first president, and then also, I
guess you succeeded him, I think.
GARDNER: Because when he died, I think, during your term,
you gave the eulogy at the funeral.
EPSTEIN: Yes. How about that? Where 'd you get that
GARDNER: Out of those document boxes I told you were at
EPSTEIN: Yes, I succeeded him. He and I and several
others were the founding members.
GAFIDNER: Well, we can talk about that when we get through
the list, perhaps, about how it happened to be founded.
EPSTEIN: And also '52 was the year that Dale bought out
Holmes. Mr. Harelick moved to Melrose, which is simply
entered here just for the record. There was a circulating
library which did a very big business, called Guild Rental
Library, at 7208 Hollywood Boulevard, which is just east of La
Brea. And the man who ran it — I forget his name — used
to buy books from us, and from time to time we'd have
some dealings of one kind or another. He used to rent
a lot of books to studios for reading, for the readers,
whereas we used to rent a lot of books to studios for
background, for movie sets. They would lease them to
the readers for reading purposes. When they got a story
they were interested in, instead of buying the book, this
man would loan it out to them. At that time there were
a lot of people still going to circulating libraries.
But it was a dying business, and eventually he had to
sell it off or get rid of his stock.
I notice that's the year that Milton Luboviski parted
company with Ida Needham. Have I talked to you about the
EPSTEIN: Ida Needham' s husband was Wilbur. Wilbur was
totally deaf. She, of course, Tvas his mouthpiece and his
ears. Wilbur was a very literary person. He did some
book reviewing for the Times when Paul Jordan-Smith was
editor of the Times book page. They opened a store, for
secondhand books , during the bad years . They had a
struggle. They fought their way up and established a
pretty fair business, which later was in Brentwood on
GARDNER: Was this after the association with Luboviski?
GARDNER: I see.
EPSTEIN: Ida had worked around in various bookstores from
time to time. She'd worked for Milton and some of the others.
Ida was a very good bookwoman, and Wilbur knew his book-
stores and he knew how to hunt out books. But they were
never in the big time in the book business. Number one,
they weren't too businesslike; and Wilbur, of course, had
this horrible handicap of not being able to hear. Wilbur
was very social conscious. Of course, Ida was, too, but
not to the degree that Wilbur was. I wouldn't be surprised
that Wilbur at one time might have been a member of the
iCommunist] party. He used to come into my place. He was
always going around looking for books for the shop or for
others or for customers. And we'd sell him a lot of books.
But he became angry with me, for this reason: there
was a group started up in our store who were going to have
a strike, which never got off its feet. And apparently he
was familiar with the background of it. And the reason it
never did get off its feet — it probably wouldn't have gotten
off its feet for more reasons than the one that's given. And
the reason for its immediate failure was that the attorney
we hired to represent us against the union researched most
everybody, and he discovered that their leader was a chap
working for us for a time, but not for long, by the name of
TAPE NUMBER: X, SIDE TWO
JULY 15, 1974
GARDNER: I'm waiting with bated breath for the end of the
EPSTEIN: Klonsky was a Communist from way back. His
picture appeared in an early issue of Life magazine as
a very young man. He would be the picture of a Communist,
you might picture, of a Communist of the twenties — wild
hair and wild eyes. I suppose they might have gotten the
picture during wild circumstances, too. But at any rate,
he was that. The attorney we had for us, of course, re-
searched the leaders, the people for it, and he brought
that information to the [Retail] Clerks' Union. "Here is
your leader; here's his picture; here's the documenta-
tion on him." And the strike threat collapsed. They
couldn't have organized our place anyway because the peo-
ple there didn't want to go to any union. (Remind me to
get back to Wilbur, which was where the story started.)
* Strike threat occurred around the first week of December
1957. Our attorneys were Sheppard, Mullin, Richter, Balthis
& Hampton. Working with them from their offices was a labor
relations counselor by the name of Jack McDowell. He was
the one we worked very closely with. The Retail Clerks
International Association (affiliated with AFL-CIO) repre-
sentative was Mel Rubin. Local 777. Curious comment can
be made that local 777 was a good customer of Pickwick, and
continued to buy books from Pickwick through the entire
controversy, and remained a good customer, and probably
still is. — [L.E. ]
But while I'm on this strike business, this Klonsky had
just been hired about two months before. He claimed that
he had a little bookstore in Philadelphia, and anyone with
a little bit of experience, we were very happy to have.
Well, I never bothered to ask anybody what kind of a book-
store it was. It happened to be the same kind of a radical-
book store as the Lincoln Bookstore, or whatever the--what
is the one called here now, the People's Bookstore? I don't
think the People's Bookstore here now represents the
Communist party the way that those bookstores were really
arms of the party in those days because the party, of course,
is not near as strong now as it was then. They don't have
At any rate, within three weeks, four weeks, we had a
strike on our hands — or the threat of a strike. Well, at
any rate, we blocked it. Apparently, there was a coterie,
an association. Immediately, we lost the goodwill of a seg-
ment of dealers and a segment of our customers--for no reason
at all except that there was the threat of a strike and that
the strike did not succeed. I received a few nasty letters,
and they were not from the people who I. . . . One of them
was from a person who'd been a customer for years. Apparently,
they did have sort of an underground, which was connected,
perhaps because of him — Klonsky. Word got around from di-
rections which I never had heard of. And apparently Wilbur
was involved in some way--not associated but knew these
people well enough to come to me one day and cuss me out
for being a capitalist. And he never came back to our
shop. We were very good friends. I'd befriended him on
many occasions. I loaned him money, and I actually gave
him money when they were starving. But that cut no ice
with him. I was a capitalist. I was a no-good capitalist.
At what point was this?
Well, let me see. It would be in 1958.
Who was your attorney?
I can't think of him. [See note.] I haven't seen
or talked to him in [years]. I had to hire a special labor
attorney. My attorney advised me to seek him out, and I
did. I got him through some people here in Hollywood who
had had similar trouble. I can't think of his name.
GARDNER: So back to Wilbur Needham.
EPSTEIN: That was one incident where it really hurt--not
my pride, but I thought that I was unjustly accused of do-
ing a bad thing. I don't think I did a bad thing because
operating a bookstore under a union, especially with what
the unions are trying to do now in bookstores, would be an
almost impossible task. At least, I thought so at the time,
and I still think so. At that time, it was even worse, be-
cause of the demands they make. They came in with a series
of demands: to have a policy in the business, and to even
have a right to reject certain books — which is totally im-
possible to run the kind of a bookstore I want and the kind
of a bookstore any reasonable man would want to run if he
wanted to be independent, have an independent mind of his
own. At any rate, the thing fell through. Wilbur was
angry with me and really told me off in no uncertain terms
that I was a goddamned capitalist. I used to bump into
Ida every so often in book places. I did bump into Wilbur
once or twice over the years, but we just exchanged hello,
nothing beyond that. But Ida probably was a little bit
more open-minded on the subject, and she used to come in
when she needed something or when she thought she had some-
thing that we might need. But I never saw their shop that
they opened. I understand it's a very nice shop.
GARDNER: Well, they've moved now from Brentwood.
EPSTEIN: When Wilbur died, Ida sold the shop, and it's
now moved to Westwood Boulevard, 2000 block something. I'm
trying to think of the name of the couple that own it. I'll
get you the name. It should be in the record right now.
[tape stopped] The Needham Bookshop is now the Needham
Book Finders. Ida sold out to the Needham Book Finders,
the [Stanley and Eleanor] Kurmans. And they belong to the
Antiquarian Booksellers now. They're running a nice shop.
They do some library business, of course, like most of the
old-book shops have to these days.
Well, that's the story of Wilbur and Ida Needham. I
was fond of Wilbur, and that's why it hurt me so much. You
know, some things you pass off, but it hurt my pride and it
hurt my feeling of friendship. We were really friendly to
him. We went out of our way to give him deals, and when
they went in the old-book business, sometimes when [there
was] something we couldn't deal in, they could. We recom-
mended them at every turn. We did the most we could--be-
cause it was a hardship. The man had an extreme handicap.
Perhaps it was the handicap that made him more bitter than
perhaps some other people. But he was a true idealist. The
fact that he expressed his idealism in that form — well,
like a great many others. I don't know; the full history
isn't told yet. It takes a couple of hundred years, maybe,
to find out actually which system is better. And it also
proved to me that it was still a very active party. Within
days of the whole thing, I started getting nasty letters
from people and phony phone calls. "Come out to such and
such an address; we've got a big library." We'd get out
there, and there was no such address. It strictly emanated
from that, which, of course, reminds me of the time when
Hollywood had a powerful commune here before and after the
Hollywood Ten incident. They were quite arrogant when
they thought they were in power, almost as arrogant as the
Birchers were when they thought they were in power — you
know, taking a book and throwing it on the floor: "Why in
the hell are you selling this fascist book?" Or "Nazi book"
or whatever. And it's only fascist and Nazi because they
said so. Maybe the man's leanings were that way. I don't
know. But they weren't that bad, except that they said
it. And by the same token: "Why don't you put this one
in the window?" when it was somebody they liked — which
is exactly the same tactics that the Birchers used, except
the Birchers used to write more letters and [have] more
direct phone calls saying, "Close my account." They
didn't write nasty letters. They would write nasty let-
ters in the sense that, "I won't trade with you now; you're
a traitor to your country," but not nasty letters, in the
sense that they called you names or things of that nature,
which was the other type. But the extremes go to extremes,
which of course has taught me--and would teach anyone who
was a reasonable person — a lesson: stay away from extremes.
There's room for everybody. Stay away from extremes. Ex-
tremes are dangerous in many ways. In politics, in science,
you have to find a means of doing things which is reasonable,
to make it fit into the machinery or change the machinery
when you can, but you have to mesh into the machinery for
everyday living. And there's a certain way of having the
machinery changed--or repaired, you might say~to do a better
job this way or the other.
As far as politics was concerned, I was almost apolit-
ical, in the sense that parties themselves were meaning-
less terms to me in most cases. When I did vote, I would
vote for the man. I was a registered Democrat. You have to
pick one party or another, and my leanings were more for the
Democratic ideas rather than the Republican. But if the
Rep\iblicans put up a man like Warren, I voted for Warren —
or [Goodwin J. ] Knight — rather than whoever the Democrats
had at the time. Even to this day, people ask me who I'll
vote for. I'll wait and see and listen to the guy for a
while rather than say, "Well, I'm a Democrat. I have to
vote for the Democratic party." Well, that's quite an aside
from where we were.
That's the story of my relations v/ith the Needhams.
Curiously, I bumped into Ida. She was in the shop several
years ago, before I retired. The year before I retired--
about three years ago. And we had quite a nice visit to-
gether. ^Vhen Wilbur died, I sent her a nice letter, tell-
ing her how much I admired his knowledge and the fact that
he put up such a fine struggle to do what he wanted to do
in the book business. I didn't say anything about the
fact that we had our differences. Because I did admire
him: I admired his courage, and I admired his literary
knowledge and his taste for books. He was one of the first
ones to pick up Steinbeck with his first book; he picked
him as a comer. He had all the early Steinbecks, which
later became very valuable. And he became acquainted with
Steinbeck. He had a lot of autographed Steinbeck material,
which I imagine Ida still has. Well, that's that.
In 1952 we noticed that Milton Luboviski and Ida had
separated. I'm not sure whether Ida just worked for him or
whether it was a partnership.
GARDNER: At that point the shop is Milton Luboviski's,
EPSTEIN: Yes. Larry Edmunds.
GARDNER: What's happened to Larry Edmunds in the meantime?
EPSTEIN: Didn't I mention when I spoke of Stanley Rose
that Larry Edmunds later had committed suicide?
GARDNER: Oh, he did, too?
EPSTEIN: It's a curious thing. Milton Luboviski's first
wife — he and his first wife was divorced, and Larry Edmunds
married her. Later on they had problems, and next we heard
that Larry had committed suicide. Larry, I think, was in-
volved to some degree, involved in the [Communist] party.
I heard rumblings that that in some way led to his suicide.
Now, I've never heard the full details, and I offer this
statement only as something that I heard. But I'm convinced
in my own mind that he was involved with the party, because
the actions and reactions to the Russian-United States re-
lationship was such that you could feel it — the way they
reacted to something that Russia did and the way they re-
acted to something the United States did versus Russia.
There was quite a colony here in Hollywood, and anybody
that denies it isn't so. . . . Not that I feel that the
Hollywood Ten were treated properly, because I think they
were not. And I knew them all. And 80 percent of them
that I knew were Communists, but two of them I was not too
well acquainted with. They were all customers of ours.
I never approved of the treatment they got. But they
were; there was no question in my mind that they were.
The fact that it was nobody's business whether they were
or not is something else again. To be condemned for what
they were years later was wrong. That's the way they felt
and that's the way it was.
But there was that colony which was related to that
particular Luboviski and Larry Edmunds bookstore when they
were partners. Now, to what extent Milton was involved in
those days, I don't know, but there's no question in my
mind that he has no use for them now.
There at one time was an Anti-Nazi League, as you
remember. And they had a bookstore on Fairfax for a short
time. A lot of the Hollywood people were supporting it,
and of course the Anti-Nazi League were fighting Nazis.
We paid membership dues for a while, because, well, we used
to think. . . . But there was a strong Commie group in it,
and they were prepared to use it only as it affected Russia
versus Germany. It was all for a second front, for the
United States to come in right away. Of course, when things
got turned around, it was exactly the opposite later. \«Jhen
the second front had to be extended to the Pacific area,
they were not there. Well, at any rate, that's a digression
from bookselling. But it was part of the Hollywood scene.
GARDNER: To get back to the bookselling, Milton Luboviski
runs the store to this day, right?
EPSTEIN: He's loyal to Larry Edmunds's name. It's run
to this day. Milton is a top authority on books pertain-
ing to the movies and movie people and so forth. He did
a lot of appraising work for movie writers when it was
the fashion to give things to some charitable institution.
For instance, a writer had a lot of scripts, and they were
valued at x number of dollars, given to USC, for instance,
where they have a school of motion pictures--or whatever
they call it — and also UCLA, to get a tax deduction for
it. But I think the government has stepped in on that
and is not as liberal in the tax allowances for that type
of thing. [tape stopped] Milton has done a lot of apprais-
ing work as an official appraiser, as a licensed appraiser.
And he is an authority on certain types of books, especially
the film arts and some theater. He does an international
GARDNER: Well, it's an area that's become extremely topical.
EPSTEIN: He specializes mostly with libraries all over the
world. It seems like every country that gains a little bit
of independence wants to become thoroughly cultured, so
they establish a motion picture department. He's listed
in all the bibliographies and directories, I suppose, for
that kind of thing. So they approach him or they had heard
of him or they had been here. We have had many groups of
motion picture people visiting the Pickwick during my time,
where there were a group of motion picture people sent by
the government. And we have sold many books to such groups
and shipped them to the government. But he has a lot of
GARDNER: And he's one of the only ones that specializes
in that, too.
EPSTEIN: One of the only ones — yes, one of the few that
specializes. There are a few others. But he has accumu-
lated a tremendous stock of that thing, and he has them
in identifiable order--which is the big thing. So if they
ask for something, he can immediately tell them. But his
prices — maybe it shouldn't be in the record — are quite
high. And he admits they're high. He says, "Well, where
else are you going to get it?" — which I suppose is right
GARDNER: Supply and demand.
EPSTEIN: To come back to another year, '53, I want to go
on record with the name of Joe Chevalier, who started a
small business on Larchmont Boulevard, still going there--
Chevalier's Bookstore. Very nice chap. One reason I want
him to be on the record is that he later became the president
of the local new-book sellers' group. Not an overly ambi-
tious person in the sense that he wants to expand his busi-
ness. He has no family to provide for, so he just enjoys a
good small business on Larchmont, south of Beverly, in that
old area there. Well, that is about all I have from the
record. I'll have to do some more research, maybe, to
bring it up to date.
GTU^NER: Well, at your leisure.
EPSTEIN: At my leisure? VTho has leisure anymore?
GARDNER: Well, I'll take the list that I have of the
antiquarians. For the oral record, Mel Royer gave a docu-
ment box full of old papers. Apparently he was secretary
to the antiquarian society during those early years.
EPSTEIN: Yes, he was. He ' s a past president of the anti-
quarians, too, later on.
GARDNER: And perhaps the most interesting piece of infor-
mation in there was the first listing of the Southern Cali-
fornia Antiquarian Booksellers [Association] , which was 1950.
Now, many of these names we've gone through. But there are
some I think perhaps we could discuss in more detail, or
there might be some who got left out here and there. So
as long as I have this list handy. . . . And then when
we get through with that, we can go into the background
of the Antiquarian [Booksellers Association] and the found-
ing of the organization. Well, the first few are Ernest
Gottlieb, whom we did; Max Hunley, whom we did; Harry Levin-
son; and Walter E. Neuman. Did we talk about him?
EPSTEIN: Walter E. Neuman.
GARDNER: He was on Le Doux in Beverly Hills. Do you re-
EPSTEIN: I recall him. I don't know if I got Gottlieb
and Neuman confused. They were both German refugees.
GARDNER: Gottlieb was music.
EPSTEIN: Gottlieb was music.
GARDNER: Neuman was old maps and prints.
EPSTEIN: Right. So I did get it right. Gottlieb was
music. Yes. Neuman was old maps and prints, and he would
appear at book auctions and book sales and buy anything
with colored plates in it and colored maps. At one time we
competed with each other at a sale. I got a few things,
but he got the bulk of it because he was a specialist. I
would sell it as a book, where he might take the book apart
and sell it as plates.
GARDNER: He was at 132 North Le Doux in Beverly Hills at
EPSTEIN: Yeah. Then he later moved out to Melrose. He
had a small store on Melrose near Robertson; 132 Le Doux
is a residence. He was operating from his home at first.
GARDNER: Is he still in business at all?
EPSTEIN: I don't know. I never hear of them. I'm inclined
to doubt it.
GARDNER: Well, we did Kurt Schwarz. The next one that's
listed is in Claremont, of all places. It's called the
Claremont Book and Art Shop.
EPSTEIN: A chap by the name of [Samuel L.] Brier. Brier
as a bookseller came out here from New York. And he settled
in Claremont. He wanted to be in a college community. And
he operated a small bookstore there--no great shakes. He
was a peculiar type of person in the sense that he wasn't
out to be a real bookman. I wouldn't call him a poseur, but
he wanted to be intelligentsia. But he wasn't quite. He
wanted that atmosphere. And if he was happy there, of
course, that was his privilege. He used to come in town ;
he used to come to meetings occasionally. And actually
at one time we had a meeting, when Charlie Yale was at
GARDNER: At Griswold's or Claremont Inn or something.
EPSTEIN: Right. That was a sort of memorial meeting.
Brier was there and I think he furnished the refreshments
for that meeting, because it was his community. They were
nice people, but I never considered him as a real major
GARDNER: I was curious seeing it. I wondered how extensive
a book market there would be in Claremont.
EPSTEIN: Well, theoretically, because of the college, there
should be some book market. Of course, there weren't as
many colleges then as there are now. There wasn't [an ex-
tensive book market]. The college community wasn't big
enough, apparently, or maybe he was not the right person
to draw them. You know, it takes a marriage of two. There
are many small college communities where a good bookstore
has been established simply because the person operating
it had the type of rapport with the college community and
the town community to establish enough business to make
a nice go of it. There were several in New England. There
was one woman in particular. I can't think of her name or
the name of the bookstore. She ran a bookstore under a
trade name of some kind, so-and-so bookstore--somewhere in
a town with a famous girls' college, and I don't even re-
member the college, whether it was Smith or somewhere. But
it can be done. I already mentioned that; it has been done
in many areas. But I don't think he was quite the person.
GARDNER: Next is Bechtold, whom we've discussed. He was
in Culver City at the time, doing mostly book search. And
after that is Arthur Clark, who was in Glendale.
EPSTEIN: Arthur H. Clark.
GARDNER: Yes. We talked about Arthur H. Clark, but in a
very limited way.
EPSTEIN: Arthur H. Clark — his business was established in
Cleveland many, many years ago. He published Americana. A
lot of his books were brought to him by amateur historians
and other historians, and he would publish them in nice
editions. And his trade was mostly to libraries. And
then he also dealt in old books of Americana, mostly Western.
In the thirties — I forget which year — he moved to the Los
Angeles area, bought a place in Glendale. They continued
their business there and did a lot of printing. They did
considerably more books here, I think, than they did in the
Cleveland area. They did an excellent job of it and
continued to be in the old- and rare-book business. I
always considered them to be high priced, but apparently
they sold enough books to continue in business. Their
business is now on South Brand Boulevard. It's the son
now who owns the business. And I don't think he himself
is participating in the business too much. What's the
name? Garrity or something? [P.W. Gallaher]
GARDNER: No, that's not there.
EPSTEIN: They've always been friendly to the booksellers.
Clark--I call him young Clark, as distinguishable from the
father, who died many years ago — participates in the Los
Angeles Corral, keeps his contacts with all the important
Western collectors and Western writers. They're still
publishing books. They publish a lot of excellent series.
GARDNER: The next one is another person who's in Glendale —
who I suspect was fairly minor — John Valentine.
EPSTEIN: John Valentine actually was not a bookman in the
sense that he operated a store. I forget now who he backed —
Jake or who. I think it was Jake and he had quite close
relations. He made his money, I believe, in the food busi-
ness some way. And he came out here, and his relationship
was in the sense that he backed — by golly, if my memory
doesn't fail me, it was Jake. And he used to come around
the bookstores, almost as a dealer--usually not alone, but
with somebody else. And I think he was a collector on his
own for a while. Whatever happened to him, I don't really
GARDNER: The next after John Valentine was Karl Zamboni.
EPSTEIN: Karl Zamboni is a long, long story.
GARDNER: Oh, good.
EPSTEIN: Well, I don't know if I can remember it all. It
goes way back. Karl Zamboni and Phil Brown had each worked,
I think, at one time for Holmes during the real bad Depression
days. Later on, somehow or other they raised enough money
to buy the Abbey. At one time they owned the Abbey Book-
shop. There was somebody else's money, of course, in it.
It was a peculiar mix-up there, and I never did get the
facts totally straight. Jake, I'm sure, was closer to
the situation than I can recollect it. But at any rate,
one of their backers was a music writer here for many, many
years who wrote a lot of fine music for the movies (and
I'll be darned if I can think of his name; if I'm not mis-
taken, it began with an A) . [Lee Harline] He died rather
young, about ten years ago. Well, this musician divorced
his wife and married Zamboni 's wife, and the musician's
wife married Zamboni. They swapped wives, the backers.
GARDNER: [laughing] That was really before their time.
It was very avant-garde.
EPSTEIN: Yes, well, there were people like that then.
Later on, they sold out the business. Zamboni kicked
around the book business quite a while. I think he worked
for Jake for a while, then he worked for Kovach for a while.
And Phil Brown — he fooled around with books, too. He was
married to Helen Brown. Helen Brown was a cookbook writer,
and she was a caterer in Pasadena [with] a very fine repu-
tation for knowledge of cookery. And Phil started collect-
ing cookbooks for her, and they formed a fine collection.
And then Helen wrote a number of books which were published,
and some of them got national recognition. Phil Brown later
went to work for Charlie Yale in Pasadena. And when the
father died--older Charlie Yale — the son Bud took over.
(His name was Charlie, but everyone called him Bud.) He
was working with Phil. Phil was, I think, more knowledge-
able of books than Bud Yale was, so they worked together
for quite a while.* And then Phil left Charlie Yale and
went to work with his wife in the catering business. They
used to have a party every New Year's, and we attended
several of them. But the house was just packed with
cookery books — besides other books. Phil had wide inter-
ests. He was a literary person, and she, too, besides her
knowledge of cookery. They both wrote. They wrote a couple
of things together. But she died, unfortunately, about ten
years ago or so, and Phil was left with all the books and
with the business--which I think he gave up because she
was the one people hired because of her reputation as a
cook.** When you went to their house for a New Year's party.
* Actually Phil had a piece of the business because it
was later called Yale and Brown for a while. — [L.E.]
** I find that Phil is in the catering business. — [L.E.]
you got some beautiful food. So that, starting with Zamboni,
brought me back.
I lost track of Zamboni. I don't know where he is now.
I mentioned Zamboni 's name to Jake a number of months ago,
and he said, "Well, he's somewhere up north." Zamboni was
a good bookman; he knew his books. But he didn't have that
strength of character to stick with something. I think he
was a moody person, psychological in some ways, maybe. But
a nice person. I do not mean that he was a no-good person.
He was a good person. I'm sorry I can't think of the name
of that musician who took part in that exchange. It begins
with A. Not Albright. I don't know his name.
GARDNER: We'll try to come back to it.
EPSTEIN: I'll crack my head.
GARDNER: A fellow named John Cole had a place in La Jolla
and was the only San Diego person who was involved in the
EPSTEIN: It was called the John Cole Bookstore. He and
his wife ran a shop in La Jolla, It was a nice little shop.
They had half new books and half old books. He died, un-
fortunately, too young. I think he worked for Marshall
Field before he went into the service. I'm racking back
into my brain the stories I heard. One of the salesmen
selling for Merriam-Webster , whose name may come up later —
Russell Goodrich — and he were great friends. They went in
the army together, and I believe Russell at one time told
me that John had worked in the book department of Marshall
Field. And when they got out of the service, Goodrich and
Cole thought of opening a business together, but they were
afraid they didn't have the capital, afraid that they
couldn't support their families. Russ had children who
were a little older than John's, I think; John may not
have had any children at that time. At any rate, they
did whatever they did after the war. Finally, John came
out here and opened up a business in La Jolla. And he
did a nice business. La Jolla, you know, has several small
bookstores--none of them great bookstores, but little shops.
Each one specializes in some kind of thing. I think his
wife's name is Margaret [actually Barbara]. She was more
or less adopted by the big family, the main family there,
the Scrippses. Mrs. Scripps sort of took her under her
wing and I think perhaps might even have helped them out.
I did hear that the Scripps woman helped to educate their
children; they paid for their college education and whatnot.
Margaret Cole is still down there. John, as I said, died.
I used to see him once in a while. I remember we were at
La Jolla one time, and Russell Goodrich, who was a Merriam-
Webster salesman for dictionaries, happened to be in town.
And we met, and Ann and I took them all to dinner. We
just happened to be at the racquet club there, the tennis
club — the La Jolla Tennis Club or whatever they call it.
We were surprised that we got in because it was not too
open for Jews. V7e heard that later. But we walked in,
and they had room for us. And we had a very nice apart-
ment, incidentally, and we stayed there a week.
GARDNER: Oh, you stayed at the tennis club?
GARDNER: You never signed the register. [laughter]
EPSTEIN: Oh, I signed the register. [laughter] So I
know her quite well in the sense that whenever
I go there I visit her, and whenever she has a problem,
she even writes me. She, too, is inclined to be over-
stocked. But she specializes in everything: sewing things
for women and all the latest fads — macrame and all that.
She gets the material and sells it along with books. But
she's horribly overstocked in books. She doesn't return
what she should return, which is one of the things she
asked me about. I said, "Look, you're always asking me
and I'm always telling you, but you never do it. I see
the same books I told you three years ago to return, and
you didn't do it. You certainly can't return them now."
But apparently she's still getting by, so there's no prob-
lem there. But they were a nice couple.
GARDNER: The next on my list comes to Los Angeles, and it's
the Abbey Bookstore. Of course, you've talked about the
Abbey Bookstore to such a great extent. But at the time
of this, there was someone named Pinans.
EPSTEIN: They had the Spanish Bookstore for a while. Then
they got rid of that and went into the Spanish Bookstore,
later moved. Yeah. Juan Pinans. He was a very nice per-
son. His wife was Jewish; they were very much in love. I
used to see her quite often. She, I think, was a legal
secretary, if I'm not mistaken. And he ran a small busi-
ness in Spanish books. There were certain Spanish things
that we would buy from him. He always tried to keep one
or two Spanish cookbooks, which we would buy from him at
wholesale. And there were a few other small items he
would wholesale. He would import them, and it would be
easier for us to buy them from him than to send to Spain
or wherever he got them. They were nice people. But he
died about seven, eight years ago, and the poor widow,
she didn't know what to do with his stock. Finally she
sold the business to somebody else. She was really broken-
hearted. I don't know what happened to her. She probably
went back to work. She's a very capable legal secretary;
they're hard to find.
GARDNER: Well, the next few on my list I think we've gone
into pretty well. They're Argonaut, and Bennett and Mar-
shall, and John Q. Burch. We spoke of all of those. And
then comes Dale's, which of course we talked about. It
mentions here that his wife was also active. Dale's wife,
I assume. Celia Dalinsky? Or is that not his wife. Who
is Celia Dalinsky?
EPSTEIN: Celia Dalinsky must have been his sister. Harry's
wife actually was Irish.
GARDNER: Oh, his sister, I see.
EPSTEIN: Because she was not his wife.
GARDNER: Oh, I see. It says, "Harry Dale and Celia
Dalinsky, genealogy and local history." Don't know her,
huh? Never came to the meetings?
EPSTEIN: Well, I knew Harry's name had been Dalinsky in
Milwaukee or somewhere he came from. He came from the
Middle West — Detroit or Milwaukee, I forget which. Yes,
I remember that a sister of his was involved in some way.
But I don't think she stayed in the business too long.
GARDNER: She just wanted a membership in the society?
EPSTEIN: Yes. Well, I didn't know her too well. I met
GARDNER: Then Dawson's, of course, we talked about. Then
N.A. Kovach. Do you know him?
EPSTEIN: Oh, Nick Kovach? Of course, I knew Nick Kovach.
Nick was around when I moved around to Eighth Street. He
followed me, I think, by two or three years. He used to
dabble in old books. He'd run across things, sell them to
other dealers. He was a smart guy. He later opened a store-
I forget what the name of the store was. I wonder if that
was the store that Sarah Borden and Manny Borden bought out?
At any rate, they had a store on Sixth Street for a while.
He got rid of that; then I remember he got into a partner-
ship with. ... I'll think of the name. [snaps fingers]
Carl Haverlin. And they opened a store on Wilshire Boule-
vard on the second floor of a little nice old building
there. Rents were cheap there. And they were going to have a
rare-book business. Nick was a very erratic person at
that time. In some ways, he's erratic still. I remember
going up there, buying some things from them and selling
some things to them. The partnership didn't work out.
It ended in a great disagreement. The partnership didn't
last. Nick went on wheeling and dealing — wholesale, re-
tail, whatever. Finally, he found his way into the busi-
ness of old periodicals — not single-copy magazines, not
the old magazine business in that sense, but periodicals
of runs, literary periodicals or technical periodicals,
supplying new libraries, replacing for old libraries. In
the later forties, especially, and the fifties, that be-
came extremely big business, because there were a tremen-
dous number of new libraries opening up and a tremendous
spread in research institutions per se . And they all needed
back files of especially technical periodicals, historical
periodicals. And the people who went into that business did
quite well. Nick used to go around to libraries and buy
their duplicates or their discards. And for a long time he
gave the book association a lot of trouble, because when he
would go in, he would say, "Well, I'll take these, and I
will give you so much in trade." Well, a library would
never be able to contact him for what they needed in books.
So they used to write letters to the association. [laughter]
TAPE NUMBER: XI, SIDE ONE
JULY 29, 1974
GARDNER: As I mentioned when we left off, we had a
couple of names left on this list of the original Anti-
quarians, the 1950 list, and just to run through them
and finish off. We finished off last time with Nick
Kovach. Is there anything else you want to say about
EPSTEIN: I believe I mentioned all the things that I
wanted to say about Nick. Nick became very successful in
his way. He's established a fine business and I think
is pretty happy with his career--considering that when I
first met him, he was, like we all were, pretty sort of
starving characters in those days. In that sense, I ad-
mire his perseverance and building up a sort of a new busi-
ness. He did a good job.
GARDNER: The next one on the list that I have is Cambridge
EPSTEIN: The Cambridge — Salzman was his name. He never
established a large business, but his business has main-
tained him for all these many years. It's still in exist-
ence. He dealt more with scholarly books, more literary
things, and I imagine it's probably part of his plan not
to have a great big shop — and just control his own working
hours more, where you can't in a big bookshop. And that's
why I think some of these smaller dealers perhaps might
have been smarter than the larger dealers who tie them-
selves down to a big business, or were tied down with a
big business and a lot of employees. Some of us made a
little more money, but in the end, I think they got what
they wanted and we got what we wanted. And there, too,
the family relationships sometimes are a deciding factor
in how far a person wants to go in this business. People
with several children whom they have to educate have to
strive to do more business, where a chap like Salzman
doesn't need it. He leads the kind of life he likes, and
I think that's very agreeable. He's a good bookman. I
shouldn't forget to say that, because when one old bookman
can say about another old bookman, "He's a pretty good book-
man," then he's gotten his degree. [laughter]
GARDNER: Next after that is Larry Edmunds, and of course
we talked about him. We talked about him, and we talked
about the shop, and we talked about both Milton Luboviski
and Ida Needham.
GARDNER: Then after that was Lee Freeson.
EPSTEIN: Lee Freeson is sort of a maverick--as I suppose
most bookmen are; otherwise they wouldn't be in the old-book
business. That's the place where mavericks, a great many,
wind up. It ' s a place where a maverick can operate his own
style, his own way, and still make a living at it. This is
a great thing about the old-book business. I don't think
you could do it in the new-book business because the invest-
ment, the original investment to start, is so great for a
new-book business. But in the old-book business a person
can start with half a dozen books, and sell two of them,
and go out and buy four more, and in that way begin to be-
come general or specialized, whichever he wants.
But Lee is an odd character. It's very difficult to
describe him. I can describe him only as he relates to
the book business. He built up a very interesting facet of
it. Unlike Milton, [who handled] the movies and some theater,
he specialized solely in the theater and some books relating to
theater: fashion as it relates to theater, and costume, all
the related areas — dance. His wife Margo — or common-law wife,
maybe — was a dancer, an excellent dancer.* But she was very
political, and if she didn't like the audience in front of her,
she'd walk off the stage. And poor Lee would go with her and
have to suffer through all that. By that I don't mean to in-
dicate that this Margo was in any way unappreciated, but if
she thought her audience wasn't worth the struggle that
she was putting through, why, she would just walk off the
stage. And, of course, it hurt her career immensely.
Lee suffered terribly during the difficult days be-
cause there was no market for the type of thing he had to
' Do not confuse this Margo with the actress Margo who is
married to Eddie Albert--both of whom were customers of
ours. — [L.E. ]
offer at that time, and she was having a very difficult
time. She was, as I say, political, extreme left, and
probably Communist party. And I'm not saying so to hurt
Lee in any sense — his reputation. But I think that both
were extreme left — at least, if not party members. I have
no way of knowing positively, but I do know that they both
were extreme left. That, of course, is not the point of
our conversation — politics. But he did build up an en-
viable reputation. The main thing in my eyes is not that
he built up money or more money. I don't know whether Lee
has any money. But he built up an enviable reputation as
an authority in his field — looked upon with a great deal of
respect for the knowledge he has. And he and I, being more
or less neighbors, and knowing him from way back in
the old days downtown, we always had an informally close
relationship — not that we visited back and forth but we were
always glad to see each other in spite of our differences of
opinion on many, many things. I used to fight with him like
anything about his politics. But still I respected the man,
and it happened to be my lot to have to help him out on many
occasions when he needed a few bucks, either for a business
deal or to get by on for a month or two. And he always came
back — sometimes a year or two late, sometimes I had to press
a little bit, but those were the way things were. I just
met him a couple of weeks ago, and we had quite a talk and
reminisced a little bit. He's the exact age that I am. His
main fear now--it's not a fear, it's a knowledge that he's
going to have to quit within two years, five years, eight
years, and there's no way he can transmit his knowledge to
anyone else. It was always a one-man operation. And when
he dies, it's going to die with him. He always operated
individually, never employed anybody. He told me of many
letters he received from universities asking him to come
and lecture to them. Of course he wouldn't do that about
the theater, but theater bibliography. And he's not a
scientific bibliographer, by any means, but he has all
this knowledge about the important books just because of
specializing in one narrow field. Of course, the theater
is not as narrow as, say, shells. I don't know, maybe it's
narrower; I have no idea.
GARDNER: And he's going to carry this with him to his grave?
EPSTEIN: Right. That's the unfortunate thing about so many
booksellers: they develop over the years a knowledge, a
specialized knowledge, a specialized memory; and if they're
very independent, they usually work alone or pretty close
to alone. They might hire a secretary or so, but that's
not a book person. They don't train anybody. And probably
they haven't the patience to train anybody. Not that they're
secretive; they just don't want to work with anyone. They're
loners; they want to work alone. That's their choice. And
unfortunately a great deal of knowledge, research, is lost.
It goes back into limbo. Somebody' 11 have to rediscover it
again years later. And he never issued catalogs particu-
larly. Very often a dealer, a specialized person, will
spill a lot of bibliographical knowledge in his catalogs,
little points that he himself has discovered while perus-
ing a book. I have two books, exactly the same book, on
my shelf, and every catalog says that they're both first
editions, that this is the first edition. On examining
them, I can point to you several different differences,
where type has been broken--in one issue, perfect type,
and the other issue, broken — and the brightness of the
plates. But by the bibliographical standards, they're
both alike. They're not alike. One of them must have
come out years before the other.
GARDNER: VThat is the book?
EPSTEIN: It's not an important first edition; it's rather
common. But nobody makes any distinction. And there are
many areas, if somebody would go through it. . . . I made
a few notes on it, which were so apparent that even I could
recognize them without looking for them. I didn't have any
reason to go through that book. To Have and to Hold, by
Mary Johnson. It's not a rare book in any sense, and it's
an important book as a good historical novel. But these
are the kinds of things that one discovers by chance. And
these become of bibliographical importance.
To go back to Lee, he has an exceptionally good spe-
cialized knowledge. He was just almost in tears telling
me about the fact that he has no way of putting it all
down. People have asked him to write a book, and he said,
"Louis, how can I sit down and write a book? I can't sit
still long enough to finish a meal." He's that kind of a
person. And he's having a problem with Margo. She has
arthritis very badly, and sometimes she can't get out of
bed. He has to take care of her. But that's another issue.
That is the story of Lee. He is not always a likable char-
acter, not always a totally dependable character, but by
and large he did something.
GARDNER: The next on the list is Larson's and I think we
talked about Larson.
EPSTEIN: Yes, I think we mentioned Larson. He had his
shop on Hollywood Boulevard west of Western, first block
west of Western. He's an odd person, and he went into meta-
physics a lot. He loved his cats and his coffee, and he
just sat there. And I think probably one of the reasons
he died at an early age, he probably wasn't active enough
physically--which is hard to say about a bookman. I could
never be inactive physically when I was in the old-book busi-
ness, or even the new-book business. I moved around. But
he developed a metaphysical business, I think from the ground
up. I don't think he had any original knowledge of it. And
he just, little by little, from what the people asked for,
he learned to sell, and he learned the values by knowing
what he could get, how high he could push the price up.
And of course that makes value: how much is a customer
willing to pay for a rare book? Not all his things were
rare, but they were good secondhand things. It was not
a used-book shop in the classic sense, where they had a
good variety of stock in many subjects. It was run pretty
messy. And his widow [Louise Larson] ran it for several
years. I was much surprised that she was able to carry it
on, but she kept plugging at it. You had to admire her.
She used to come to see me quite often and buy things from
us occasionally. We would buy from her occasionally, and
she had great respect for me. She would ask me questions
on what she should do as a matter of policy, or her busi-
ness, and I always tried to be very helpful. And she ap-
preciated that. I think the book people thought that I
had a great deal more wisdom than I really have. [laughter]
GARDNER: After that one, I have Dr. Kurt Melander.
EPSTEIN: Dr. Kurt Melander. He was a refugee. He's still
around, although I haven't seen him in a number of years.
A refugee from Germany, I think he went to South America
before he came to North America, the United States. And he
learned the Spanish language there. Or he may even have
lived in Spain; I don't know. My impression is that he may
have told me this: that he went to South America when they
had to run into whatever corridor was open. At any rate, he
learned Spanish fairly well. And having a doctorate to begin
with and a well-rounded backgroiond of knowledge, he began
to work with Spanish books. There was a field in which
the dealers here knew little about, he knew something about.
And he began to pick up whatever Spanish things there were
aroiond, and visited libraries, and built up a small busi-
ness, which maintained him, of selling Spanish books. And
he would buy also English books, too, but primarily he went
in for Spanish literature, which he would sell to libraries —
catalog, or by letter — and maintained himself not badly.
He's a very nice, quiet person. He paid me a very fine
compliment on the last occasion I saw him. I bumped into
him at the Pickwick, oh, just before I retired. And we got
to talking. When we had old books he was there at least
once or twice a week. And we got to talking about a number
of things and the fact that we had known each other for at
least twenty-some-odd years, and he paid me a compliment.
He said, "You know, I watched you progress from way back
in a small bookstore to a business far beyond what you
probably yourself had ever anticipated, and the way you
ran it and the success of it." He said he always had
great admiration for me in the way I treated him and the
way I maintained my business, and he said he wanted to
tell me that. And two days later I got a little card from
him saying how much he enjoyed knowing me. I think he works
out somewhere in the Valley now. I remember one time I
visited him in North Orange Grove. [tape stopped]
GARDNER: Okay, is that it on him? Well, Pickwick is
next, and I think we've talked about Pickwick. Then
comes F.N. Bassett. Do you know F.N. Bassett?
EPSTEIN: V7ell, Bassett was what I would call a spe-
cialist dealer, and his specialty was nature books, in
a very narrow field. There again is an illustration of
what a person can do. At one time it was as a hobby. I
don't know what his profession was, whether he was a teach-
er or what, but he just decided that he would expand on it
and make it his business. And he did. I didn't know too
much about him personally. We used to sell him things in
his field from the old-book department. Whenever we'd
get something, he'd buy from us. And there again, with
every specialist with whom we came into contact, we learned
something from them. I always did, and I think that's
where I picked up the knowledge in these various fields
that a general bookman carries around with him.
GARDNER: Roman Novins is next.
EPSTEIN: Roman Novins: he had a small, a very small busi-
ness, but he dropped out of it after about two or three years.
A very nice person. I don't know too much about him. He
did, one day, bring me two framed pictures of Pickwick char-
acters--the characters out of [The] Pickwick [Papers] — and
I still have 'em. And I said, "I'll buy these from you."
"No," he said, "I want you to have them; this is with my
compliments." That's the kind of a guy he was. A very
nice guy. But there must have been some little bit of
money behind the family, because the way they were
living certainly was not from any thing he could make
as a beginner in the book business. His wife may have
had inherited money, or--I don't know. But he didn't
last too long in it.
GARDNER: Then next we have Mel Royer, whom we talked about.
EPSTEIN: Yes, we talked about Mel.
GARDNER: And Zeitlin and Ver Brugge, which we talked about
EPSTEIN: Did I mention about Mel that the Japanese came and
bought all his entire stock?
GARDNER: No, I don't think so.
EPSTEIN: Yes. You know, I think maybe we ought to mention
that. It's an interesting episode, and it's historical.
Mel, you know, had been not too well in the last number
of years. Mel must be close to eighty now, if he isn't
past eighty, because when I was a beginner, I looked upon
him as a mature person — me being all of twenty-four, begin-
ning in Los Angeles. And he was a customer; and, as I
mentioned before, he already was established with a firm —
I think in the accounting department, or whatever. And
the last number of years, he had been trying to sell his
business, because it became more and more difficult for
him to operate it. He had one possible sale, where he
actually went to take inventory; and for one reason or
another, the sale fell through. I don't believe the
people who were wanting to buy it had any idea that the
inventory would run to that amount of money. And we in
the trade heard about it. Even though I wasn't in the
trade at the time, I still maintained my contacts, you
might say. Then one day I heard that Mel sold his entire
stock--lock, stock, and barrel — to a Japanese group who
came over, and came in, and packed everything that was in
the shop--every scrap of paper, everything. Someday I'm
going to run across Mel and get the background of it, be-
cause it's a very unusual type of deal. They just packed
up everything and shipped it to Japan. Now whether they
were Japanese dealers, or whether it was the Japanese
government, or to give to a university, or whatever, I
don't know. But that's what happened to Mel's stock. It's
probably somewhere in Japan, maybe the University of Osaka,
or somewhere like that. Eventually it'll have to wind up
in a university. It was too varied and too large for an
individual, unless somebody makes an American art-book
store out of it.
GARDNER: Well, it's possible, in Tokyo. Also, we talked
about Phil Brown, and we talked about the Yales. I think
perhaps now we could insert something about the founding
of the organization, how it happened to come together, and
your own participation in it.
EPSTEIN: Well, like so many organizations, difficulties
come up which affect all of us, everyone in the trade.
It was founded because there was a need. The need was
created by some problem that came up. And we were having
problems with two things: the main problem we were hav-
ing was that from time to time there would be — I wouldn't
say police harassment but the police would discover that
somebody had stolen a book somewhere and sold it to a
dealer. Were we not bound by the same laws as secondhand-
furniture dealers, or pawn shops, or things like that? Now
this goes back; the same things come up from the earliest
days. Most of the time we were always able to beat the
police back, in the sense that, "Look, this is an isolated
instance. You never have any trouble with us, and we police
ourselves to a certain degree. There might be some of us
who would buy books which he knew might have been stolen.
But for the most part, none of us are looking for trouble."
And the second thing, the other thing, is that whenever
anyone discovered a book in a used-book shop which had
been stolen from somebody, they were always given that
book back, or they were given it back for the price that
the dealer paid. This was a haphazard arrangement, but
it worked, in my opinion, much better than rules and regu-
lations by the policemen had worked. It caused less harm
and less fuss. [lawnmower noise; tape stopped] So with
all this trouble we were having from time to time, there
was one particular period where they really started getting
tough. [tape stopped] There's one spot there where they
really became tough with us, and they passed a very strict
law that we must report every book we buy and have to get
the signature and identification of the seller, whether
it's one book or a thousand books, whether we bought it
in the store or we bought it at the person's home. This
was almost an impossible task. If you bought a library
of several hundred books, you'd have to hire a person to
So we got around, and we organized a group of us, and
we said, "Look, we've got to have a group that'll get to-
gether, and maybe hire an attorney, and fight this thing."
[tape stopped] So we did just that, and that's the way
our organization was born, or revived. The people who
were looked upon in those days in the trade were Jake,
Louis Epstein, Dawsons , Charlie Yale. Holmes never partic-
ipated in anything, although he probably was one of the
largest dealers here. And [with] many of the smaller ones
around the city, we got together and organized this group.
That's the way it was. And we took turns being the presi-
dent of it. We used to meet informally. Well, like all
these drives, the thing finally quieted down. We tried to
hire an attorney to fight city hall, but attorneys who
fight city hall are extremely expensive. We spent about
$500 in cash, which was a lot of money for our group, but
he did us very little good. I think our own conduct prob-
ably helped us more than whatever the attorney did. We got
the law modified a little bit. The law is probably still
on the books, but it's never been enforced. [tape stopped]
GARDNER: Well, my next question would be your own involve-
ment. You were one of the first presidents, if not the
EPSTEIN: Yes, I was one of the first. I think Charlie
Yale, if I'm not mistaken, was the first. There isn't
much to say, you know, about being president of that. It
was a small group; we did what we had to do. Most of our
meetings we discussed a minimum of business and a maximum
of gossip. Booksellers are a notoriously gossipy group.
They can't keep a secret — in no way. Almost every year
we had a dinner. And our meetings were held at our homes,
as a rule. I think we had several meetings up at the other
house on North Curson.
After one of the meetings--I may have mentioned, in
speaking about Harry Lawyer--word got around (he later
threw it up to me) that I lived in a mansion. That's the
North Curson house. It's far from that.
But [it was] a very loose organization. We really
didn't have too many problems to settle. I think what it
eventually evolved into, when they got into the national
group, the AABA--they became more exclusive. We would take
anyone in the trade who wanted to join. As a matter of fact,
we dug them out to have them join us. The present group,
which is part of the international — they have certain
standards. You have had to be in the business x number
GARDNER: Is that so?
EPSTEIN: I don't know what their standards are now,
but they vote you in or out. You have to be of good
character. We never questioned a guy's character,
GARDNER: From some of the stories you've told me, that
would have limited the membership quite a bit. [laughter]
EPSTEIN: If anyone had any reason to blackball you, which
I think is totally illegal in the trade organization — I'm
not necessarily going to express my opinion. This is
quite a different organization now. I think it only has
those who are specialists and real rare-book dealers. I
don't think it has the total number of people, of used-book
sellers, in the area in proportion to the total nxomber of
booksellers there were. We had a greater proportion of
the members of the booksellers than the proportion they
have now. But I think the present group intentionally
wants it to be so. But the chap who has just an average
secondhand-book store — I don't really think they want
him in the organization. Which, I think, is a mistake,
because two things happen: There's a certain amount of
contact that's lost between the two, and the one who has
what I term an ordinary used-book store — that is, not be-
ing a specialty shop; the chap who buys and sells almost
any kind of book--he has less chance to learn from the
other people if he doesn't belong to their group. Dis-
cussion always takes place at every meeting, informally.
They ask each other questions, and they hear of a book that
somebody said was rare. I didn't know it was rare, and I
immediately perked up my ear. And I learned that that was
a rare book instead of a common book, or it was worth x
number of dollars instead of two, three dollars. And that
is a means of learning the book business, the constant
mingling of these people in the trade.
This is an aside from your question. They have so
many tools now of learning values which we never had in
our day. They have more active reporting in the trade
papers, where they give you resxames of auction sales.
And they have something new that's come up within the
last eight, ten years. It's a set of books; the compiler
of it goes through all the catalogs issued by dealers.
When I say all of them, I'm positive it can't possibly be
all, but a great many catalogs issued by various dealers
across the country. And he gathers that information, and
they list it in those books. And from time to time, they
bring them up to date. Now, a lot of that information is
published regularly, has been, in American Book Prices
Current, over the years. But the American Book Prices
Current did not list as many books as individual catalogers
did. The American Book Prices Current only listed those for
auction. So they have a tool of knowledge for getting the
GARDNER: What is that? What is that book?
EPSTEIN: I don't exactly know the name of it, but I think
your library probably has it.
GARDNER: Oh, I'm sure, yes.
EPSTEIN: And you might get it, or you might call one of
the dealers and stop in and look at it. I've never used
it; I've never looked into it. But I know that it exists.
I've seen advertisements for it, and I've seen it on some
dealers' shelves. So in that respect, their knowledge
about values is greater. But the harmful thing is that
a house that issues a catalog is usually aimed at the
library market, and the library market will pay more for
things that they want than the average person walking in
off the street. So I found this to be true, and I will
go into some used-book stores, on some days when I run
across them, and do a little browsing. They all will
have those books marked up at the highest possible value.
And they sit there, month after month after month. And
if you question them about it: "Oh, well, that's what it
has to bring in the "--whatever the name of the book is — the
trade prices. And I think in that respect, it lessens the
turnover of stock for the merchant. The person who doesn't
issue catalogs is riding on the back of those who do issue
catalogs. But I think they're making a mistake. I think
they should maybe price them proportionately, but not
Anyway, my reasons for questioning the wisdom of
not allowing all the booksellers in or asking them to
join: I question that as being totally good for the book
trade. It may be good for some of those participants who
are rare-book dealers. They get together and do the same
things we used to do — talk about books, and bring in a
person who's knowledgeable of books who'd occasionally
give us a lecture, in addition to having our business
meeting. I think they should try to teach more people,
rather than restrict the numbers they can teach or trade
with. In my way of thinking it has a certain amount of
selfishness put into it. They have control of the organi-
zation, and they do good things. They encourage business
from librarians, because librarians are their chief cus-
tomers now — it wasn't so in the early days. Libraries
didn't have as much money, and there weren't as many of
them. Especially college libraries. And the rare-book
libraries — a lot of them have been established over the
years by foundations. The college libraries, university
libraries, and foundations are probably the chief buyers
of rare books. And they're very thoroughly cultivated by
the rare-book dealers — which is proper. Every other in-
dustry tries to cultivate relationships with their customers
to increase business.
At any rate, the organization just kept on. It would
quiet down. Then something else would come up, and we'd
get excited and boom up again. It had its ups and downs.
But it was a great place to have a little fun, do a little
bit of drinking. At our annual dinners, a lot of the boys
would like to show off their prosperity. It was a nice
group. And practically every person we mentioned of the
old-timers has been a president of it at one time or another.
GARDNER: It had a turnover?
EPSTEIN: Yes, we encouraged the turnover, because the amount
of actual business we transacted for the organization was
minimal. We paid our dues, and we had a little fun. And
a problem would come up. It was usually the president's
job — at least when I was president— to settle differences
between dealers: transactions where one felt that he
wasn't being paid, or paid on time, or had been taken
advantage of by someone else. A couple of dealers, I
had a great deal of correspondence with libraries about:
they felt that the libraries were promised certain deliver-
ies of books which never came through. But that's the
nature of people, and they're in the book business, same
as everywhere else.
GARDNER: When did your own participation end?
EPSTEIN: Frankly, I made one serious error: I dropped
out of the organization when we went out of the old-book
business. But my participation, before that even, wasn't
active participation. I would go to the dinners, but I
rarely attended the other meetings. My lack of partici-
pation increased as my new-book business increased--and
demands on my time, too. I dropped out, and I remember
Glen Dawson calling me and saying, "Why did you drop out,
Louis? We need you in the organization." I said I felt
that I was no longer of any use because I was no longer
in the old-book business. Well, he was right; I should
not have dropped out. And as a matter of fact, after I
retired, I asked to be reinstated--which I was, but only
on one of the rare exceptions. I think I'm the only one
in the whole country who is not an active dealer who was
reinstated after having dropped out. There would have
been no question of my continuing to be a member had I
retired from the old-book business.
GARDNER: Because of your longevity.
EPSTEIN: But here I dropped out before my career was
ended in the book business. And I wrote them. I said,
"You can't do that to me ; I'm one of the founding members."
So they made the exception, and now I'm an associate mem-
ber. I don't have any voting rights, but I can go to their
organizational meeting. And I've attended a few meetings.
But in thinking back, I realize that Glen was right. I
should not have dropped out because I'd been such an active
participant in it. But now everybody's happy I'm back in.
GARDNER: Even though you can't vote. One of the big
activities of the local chapter is the book fairs. Do
you participate in this?
EPSTEIN: Well, the book fairs are relatively recent,
you know. They didn't have those in our day.
GARDNER: Oh, I see.
EPSTEIN: Fairs of all kinds have become more common.
They have these international book fairs now for rare-book
dealers, and I think from that the idea evolved that we
should have one in the city. They now have them in New
York; they have them in London; they had one in Toronto,
Canada, just early this spring, I think, or sometime this
spring. So this is relatively new, I think--what, seven,
GARDNER: Oh, is that all it is?
EPSTEIN: Maybe a couple of more years. And they've been
successful. They're planning one, I think, for sometime
GARDNER: One of the early activities when you were there
was an auction. Do you recall that auction at all?
EPSTEIN: I don't recall any auction. Oh, yes, yes. It
was after my time — where each bookseller brought in some-
thing to raise a few dollars for the organization. Yes.
I did not participate in that, because by that time, I
was out of the picture.
GARDNER: There are just a few minutes on the tape, so to
wrap it up I'll just ask you about some of the people who
are in it now who weren't before, and who we haven't
discussed. Cherokee is one that I'd like to talk about
because it's one of your neighbors.
EPSTEIN: Cherokee is Jack Blum, of course. Incidentally,
the Cherokee is where Lee Freeson makes his headquarters.
I don't know if he still has, but he had a little bit of
an office there, and he kept a little bit of a stock there.
But Jack Blum started in, oh, I would say in the fifties,
with a little shop on Cherokee Avenue just south of Holly-
wood Boulevard. And he was specializing in Hollywood
material — pictures of stars and anything related to the
movies and movie magazines and whatnot. There's always
a market for these movie collectors. I never did fully
understand, and I don't to this day. I can't see that
many of them being scholars and why they want these pic-
tures, but for one reason or another, they do. Jack stuck
with it and learned more and more. He finally had to give
up his store on Cherokee, and he moved over to Hollywood
Boulevard. He now has a very well established business.
His sons are now taking over. And he has gone into the
business with variety, enlarged the scope of his business.
He has a lot of very fine sets. His sons started in with
the comic-book business, and they developed that and a
lot of other areas. He operates a little bit differently
than any other bookseller I know of, where he gives each
one of his people a certain specialty that they develop.
And now he has [Clark] Casey in the Americana department;
and he has his sons, as I say, in the movie business
and one in the other business; and he himself takes care
of sets and things like that. All his buying has always
been done for him by his employees. He himself has sat
in the back of the picture. But it apparently worked out
quite successfully; he seems to be doing well. Jack is
a very nice person. I say that because I've involved him
in other things where only a nice person would be involved
GARDNER: Such as?
EPSTEIN: Like the United Jewish Welfare Fund. Even in the
days when things weren't very good with him, he always
managed to make a contribution. I could mention some
names of other Jewish booksellers, and I hope that the
record doesn't indicate that I'm overinvolved with Jewish
affairs because I think Jewish affairs need some intense
involvement since the Hitler days, and they're still going
on in the state of Israel today. And I always felt that
it was my duty as a Jew--I always felt that it was the
same duty of the other people who were Jews — and I tried
to involve the Jewish booksellers in addition to many other
people, and I'm happy to say I was very successful.
TAPE NUMBER: XI, SIDE TWO
JULY 29, 1974
GARDNER: You want to finish the sentence?
EPSTEIN: As I say, I was happy to say I was successful
in involving some--and totally unsuccessful in involving
some other — Jewish booksellers (whom I will not name) .
I'm particularly proud of the fact--and I think this
should not be taken amiss by anybody if they happen to
hear what I'm saying--that I was able to originally get
contributions, say, from a chap like Jake Zeitlin, when
he was not as affluent as he is today. Now his contribu-
tions run into sizable sums. Also Jack Blum, when he was
having a very difficult time, he gave me at least some-
thing, to at least express his involvement, his duties,
his duty as a person of a particular group that needed
help. My feeling about it has always been, "Look, I am
part of that group. I don't care where I live, and I
don't care what I do . If I were in the circumstances they
were in and it was only because they were of that group
that they were attacked, I might have been attacked — and
undoubtedly would have been attacked. And I might have
suffered the fate that the others have suffered, so it's
a part of my duty to help those to escape who could escape,
and to help them get a foothold somewhere where they can
earn their own existence and become persons again." But
some people don't want to be involved in anything--which
applies to local charities and local civic affairs, too.
One does not exclude the other. It happens to be the
lot of the Jewish group in our comiriunity to be involved
in both. You do not — by no means — neglect the local
affairs, local charities. I contribute to them, too, and
I think everyone who contributes to the welfare organiza-
tions I'm talking about is the same type of person who
will contribute to all charities, all kinds of organiza-
tions that need help in doing a worthwhile task. It's
my philosophy. I don't know whether it's because of it;
maybe that would help create me, help create my outlook
on life that attracted the people to my place of business.
I don't know. I have theories about it--they're surmises;
I would call them theories. And, you know, "bread upon
the waters" sort of thing, but not exactly in that phrase.
We gave away a lot of money, and we're still giving away
a lot of money, but there seems to be money coming back
to us. And we had to struggle to get it; and if we didn't
have it, obviously, we wouldn't have given so much away.
But I'm very thankful I was able to involve people, to
convince them, to show them that this is the right thing
for them to do.
Take a man like Milton Luboviski. He's of Jewish back-
ground— raised perhaps. It might have even been an Ortho-
dox Jewish family; I don't know that much about his family
background. But from the first time, Milton--his original
contribution was sort of an offhand thing: "Okay, Louis.
You asked me for it; I'll give it to you." I said, "Milton,
don't give me a nickel. I don't need it. But I want you
to feel that you're giving something to help somebody who
cannot help himself simply because he is part of our group--
your group and my group." If it was a Catholic group who
was being persecuted, or as the Armenians were by the Turks.
Well, the Armenians lost a million and a half people. For
no reason. And over the years, he got the idea better, and
his contribution now is not a great deal of money, but it's
meaningful. And what's more important to me is it's a
contribution with something behind it, not just something
for Louis Epstein because I asked for it. And by the same
token, some of the contributions I originally got simply
because I^ asked for it. I'm sure that if somebody else
had come in. . . . They knew me; they had a certain re-
spect for me, which enabled me to talk to them. I had a
personal basis on which to talk to them that perhaps no-
body else could talk to them on. Like Milton, for instance —
I'm almost positive that had somebody else gone to see
Milton that first time, I don't think they would have
This is totally aside from the book business, but
it's an aside to show that book dealers should be — and
are, some of them — in activities which are beyond the book
business itself. And I'm sure if you talk to Jake or
some of the others, they will find areas in which they
participate. Jake does a lot of things for libraries.
Well, I do a few things for libraries, too. Politically,
Jake is involved. Well, I am involved politically, too.
The reason I mention Jake so often is because I think Jake
is a very broad-minded person and a very significant per-
son, with whom I've been associated so many years, and
whom I respect so much. I use him as an example, too,
of how a man has climbed way above his adversities at
the beginning, both his family adversities and his finan-
cial adversities. And I think in that respect, I have a
certain judgment of Jake which is perhaps beyond that of
others in the trade whom I might mention--which I certainly
won't. He's a bigger man. I don't know how to put it.
His reputation should be much greater beyond that of his
reputation in the book trade alone. And I think it is.
I think he has been involved. I think Glen Dawson is de-
serving of a great deal of credit, because beyond his
participation in everything pertaining to the book busi-
ness, he's also involved with many things: involved in
church, involved with libraries, involved in many things
pertaining to the reading and spreading of knowledge. A
good churchman. And he raises a nice family, participates,
and he does other things which are not particularly related
to books which are worthwhile. I think somewhere along the
line, of course, [the fact of] this being a story of books
should not preclude people being cited for things other
than their particular business.
GARDNER: Well, the other one that's on the new list that
wasn't on the old is Heritage Book Shop.
EPSTEIN: Heritage, I know very little of their background.
They opened in the same block as the Pickwick, and I went
in to see them--a couple of very bright youngsters, the
Weinstein brothers [Louis and Ben]. And apparently they've
learned their business very well, and they're, from what I
hear, extremely successful. I don't know how they started,
where their finances came from, but to me it appears that
they must have brought a great deal of finances into the
book business when they came in because of the rapidity
of their growth in certain areas which involved a lot of
money. In my mind that is beyond the capability of what
they might have earned in the relatively short time they
were in business. Now, I'm not saying that in any critical
sense whatever. That's my opinion. Someone else may know
more about them than I .
GARDNER: How long have they been at it?
EPSTEIN: Well, let's see, two, four, six . . . they've
been on the Boulevard close to about eight years now, I
think. Maybe a trifle longer. Time just telescopes with
me. But I really do know very little about them. There's
another brother who has a bookstore in Hollywood. Book City,
I think, is owned by Jerry Weinstein, who's a brother.
And I understand there's a brother in Long Beach who has
a bookstore, used books. The brother from Long Beach now
runs The Book Treasury of 6707 Hollywood Boulevard--the
former location of Heritage. So they're very much inte-
grated in the book business. [tape stopped]
You ask me about Theodore Front. He is in the [busi-
ness of] books about music. He used to come to the Pick-
wick to buy books on music or whatever other things he
might need, and he was more or less of a collector. And
then he decided he would like to go into the thing full
time. As a collector, he probably sold things now and
again. And he came to me and said what did I think of
him going into the music-book business? I knew him as a
man who knew music books. And I said, "I think it's a
very good field." He said, well, he'd been doing a little
business in his home, in the off-hours and all that, but
he wanted to quit whatever he was doing and go in full
time. And I said, "If you've got the idea, you'll even-
tually worry yourself all about it for a long time. And
I think you can make a go of it. There are a few people
in the country who are doing it, and the market for music
in Southern California is tremendous. You know your books
and you know your business. Go ahead." Sure enough. "Well,"
he said, "by golly, I think now that you've said these things
to me, you've pointed out the areas in which I could serve."
I mean, it was a general discussion, a little bit of
general ideas how to go about it. He knew a lot about
it already--where to buy music, where to sell music he
bought, and he knew all the music people so the doors
would be open to him. I said, "I'm sure you could make
it." And I understand he's doing quite nicely.
I see they have a member here on the list by the
name of Marian L. Gore. "Cookery, wine, hotels, inns,
coffee, tea, gardening, herbs, mushrooms." Marian Gore,
Mrs. Gore, was an old customer of ours. Her husband had
a graphics business in Hollywood on Santa Monica Boulevard.
And the family were customers of ours. One day we heard
that there was a divorce coming up. They were separated.
And it eventually happened. And Mrs. Gore kept coming in,
and he kept coming in, too. We got two accounts instead
of one. But then she told me she wanted to start into
the book business. She wanted to open a new-book store.
And I talked her out of it. For two reasons: she told
me the amount of money she would have available, and I
didn't think that was enough to start a store, and it
would be risking all that she had, which was a risk that
was too great for her to take. And she had no particular
background in running a business, either — let alone r\anning
a bookstore business. And I explained it to her. I told
her how much she would have to have for initial stock and
how much rent she would have to pay. We sat down, and we
went over the skeletal figures. And she decided it was
not for her. Well, it was my surprise that a few years
later, I found out that she went into this old-book busi-
ness. She moved to San Gabriel and went into this busi-
ness little by little, and apparently picked up these books
and sold them to people she knew who were interested in
the subject, and gradually built up--I don't think it's
a big business but it's enough of a business, apparently,
to help earn her living. It may support her entirely; I
don't know. I bumped into her at a Friends of the UCLA
Library dinner. And that was the first I had heard of it.
And she said she'd issued catalogs. I said, "Well, why
didn't you send me some?" She said she'd send them to
me. A very interesting catalog. So now, occasionally,
I pick up something in her field and I'll write to her
about it. But there again, it proves the theory that if
a person has a specialized knowledge or special interest,
he can gradually build a book business into it. Mrs. Gore
again proves that case.
Doris Harris Autographs: she was president of the
group for a while. I don't know her too well, but she
seems to be a very capable person.
And [G.F.] Hollingsworth, who is a Western Americana
dealer in Manhattan Beach, is an excellent bookman. We
used to sell him a lot when we had old books. He used to
buy a lot of remainders from us and keep them a year or
two until the remainder supply would be exhausted, and
then he would put them in his catalog at close to the
original price — which is a common practice. I'm not tak-
ing away from his reputation. It's a common practice, and
I think it's a worthwhile practice because he saves a cer-
tain number of books for collectors who'll come later and
want the book. And many remainders in later years become
quite scarce. A remainder sometimes is an excellent book of
which there weren't enough buyers for the original edition.
It has nothing to do with the quality of the book. And very
often when the supply is gone, they become extremely scarce.
I myself have paid three times the price of what I could
have bought it as a remainder at.
The International Bookfinders is Dick Mohr — Richard
Mohr. There again is an example of a person who is in one
kind of a business and built up a sideline which eventually
proved greater than his original business. He was in the
advertising business in some area. And he went into a
search service operation, but he advertised his services
in certain areas which brought him a lot of excellent ac-
counts. And now he's really a very knowledgeable bookman
and apparently does a very fine business. His wife is in-
volved; his son was involved until he went off to college.
And I think that's his principal business now. I think he's
doing extremely well.
There are a number of people on the list now, on
the list of members here, who I know very little about,
or absolutely nothing. I don't know Carolyn Kaplan; I
may have met her. I don't know Caler publications; I don't
know [Laurence] McGilvery. We talked about Kurt Schwarz,
and I think we've covered all the old-book men about whom
I can have any knowledge, about whom I have any knowledge.
GARDNER: The next section, then, that we'll cover will
be the different bookmen, the book salesmen who've come
in and out of Pickwick.
EPSTEIN: Well, they now like to be called book publisher's
GARDNER: Publisher's representatives, okay.
EPSTEIN: They feel they're one cut above the drummer. The
new-book business, of course, has no relation to the old-
book business. But in the new-book business, a publisher's
representative or salesman — whatever you wish to call him —
is a very important person. At least, they were to me. They
bring you news of the new books of their own particular field,
their own particular house; and then they bring you what's
happening in the industry, which way the trends of books
are going, which publishers are having good seasons or bad.
They talk about more — not more about other people's lines
than their own, but they constantly have to bring you news
to compare what they're selling with what the house is
selling — why their book of fiction is a better book of
fiction than, say, Doubleday's. And then, especially the
major houses like Random House; Doubleday; Little, Brown;
Houghton Mifflin; Macmillan; Morrow; and McKay, now--they
had varying degrees of successes from season to season.
Each year they're competitive for the bookseller's dollar.
And they have to tell you why we have to buy their books
rather than their competitor's books; so, in a degree, they
have to know what their competitor is doing. And they pro-
vide us with a great deal of knowledge, and we have to learn
how to accept that knowledge--which salesman's judgment to
respect, and which house's judgment to respect. Viking is
a house that requires a lot of attention. [So is] Knopf.
So we had to learn to listen to the salesmen, to read
the salesmen, you might say. We'd have to know which one
puffs more than the other, which one is likely to exaggerate,
which one is carried away by what his sales manager told
him or what his editors told him. And over the years you
get to know them. You get to know which are the men whose
information is totally reliable. And that depends, of
course, a great deal on the house he's working for. Is
the house totally reliable in giving honest information?
Rather than some houses, who we know are always puffing
1,000 percent. There are houses that do that. They don't
know how to judge their own product. Everything they pro-
duce is going to be the best seller, and they expect us to
buy accordingly — which, of course, we can't and we don't. So
in this respect, the salesman is a great teacher. To me,
they were tremendous teachers, because I had never bought
new books. I had never worked in old books until I started
the store. Then I had to start over again to learn another
new business, really. The two businesses are very much
unlike, although I would tell everyone starting in — if they
asked me, that is--that if they spent two or three years in
the old-book business and then went into the new-book busi-
ness, they would have a much broader scope of the new-book
business, because in the old-book business we handled a
broader scope of knowledge. We're not confined to those
things that come out today, with a minimum of classic
material that every new-book store handles.
At any rate, to me at least, the book publisher's
representatives were extremely important because of my
ignorance to begin with and the scope of knowledge that
they brought to me. And there were some outstanding men
who were in the field when I started who had almost national
reputations as knowledgeable and excellent salesmen. There
were two or three of them who were extremely beneficial for
me to know and for me to have been called on by them.
One of them,, particularly, was one of the men whom
I knew before I went into the old-book business, James
D. Blake. He represented Harper's. The first time I
ever saw his books, I had to go to the hotel. In the old
days (this was in the 1920s and before) , the book sales-
man would bring a trunkful of books, take them to the
hotel, and invite his clients to come up to a series of
appointments. And then they would show them the books
and tell them what there is. Of course, that is not be-
ing done now. And I remember one time, even before I
bought new books particularly to any extent, I was in-
vited to his suite. And I, first time, saw a publisher's
layout. I knew him before we opened in Hollywood, but
when we opened in Hollywood and began to buy a few new
books, he would call on us, sell us a few. Then when we
announced that we had to go into the new-book field, and
were going to really put in a stock of new books, then he
said, "Louis, I have to spend a whole day with you going
over the Harper line." In those days Harper had a very
big line, probably larger than they have today — of classics
and basic books on many, many subjects. I think their list
is much more narrow today than it was then. I said, "Jim,
I don't need a whole day of your time." I said, "I'm not
going to buy that many books." He said, "I know you're not
going to buy that many books. But if you're going to start
buying new books, you have to be knowledgeable of what is
available, and Harper is one of the broadest lists in the
business." And then he named two or three other publishers;
he said that "you must become acquainted with their whole
list." I said, "Okay." I mean, he was a good deal older
than I was, and I respected him. And he said, "Well,
I'll come in, and we'll break for lunch, and then. ..."
And sure enough, he came in, and he went over every book
on the Harper list, whether it was relevant to my busi-
ness or not. He said, "I'm going to tell you about every
one of these books in the list. " And he went down every
book in the Harper list, and the catalog was about an inch
and a quarter thick. Well, he had my mind reeling in many
areas. But there were certain books about which he said,
"Louis, now this book you've got to have." He didn't try
to sell me everything--by no means. But he said, "I want
you to know they're available in case somebody asks you
for them." He said, "Let it sink in a little bit." And
it was a great thing. And all that little bit of sinking
in, somewhere in your consciousness you became aware of it.
I think a bookman's mind is either trained for that or in-
herited for that. And if he's got that, he's really got
something. And at that time, my mind was much more accurate
than it is now.
But we went over every book. And there were certain
books he'd tell me, "You've got to have this. You'll sell
this." And occasionally we would come across a book, and
he said, "Louis, this book you'll never sell, but you've
got to carry it in your store." "Why? Jim, why would I
need a book that I won't sell?" He said, "It'll make your
store stand out. People will be impressed with it." And he
said, "You'll sell one occasionally. You'll sell enough
in a year. You may sell only one in a year, but then you
may be discouraged about handling it." And for those days,
it would be a rather high-priced book. And by golly, he
was absolutely right. He had an uncanny knowledge; he
had specialized knowledge of every book in the store.
There was a book on music of some kind; I forget the
title of it. [There were] two or three of them that
he picked out--a book of English grammar. There are
thousands of English grammars for less money than he
had, but his grammar was a particularly good one. It
was much more expensive than the others, but it was a
book. . . . And he taught me that a bookstore must be
broad in scope. I say, "He taught me." He encouraged me
to follow the principle. In the old-book business, in the
general old-book store, you learn that the broader the
scope, the better the business, you see. And he pressed
irie, impressed on me, that it applies also to the new-book
business. And I think those little things helped me. He
went on and sold me for years, and he would guide me through
a catalog. Occasionally he would say, "Now, Louis, this is
a good book, but I'm not sure you can sell it." Well, we
compromised. The minute he told me it was a good book,
from what he had told me previously in that first lecture
day — let's call it that--that if he said this was a good
book, somebody's going to want it. And I adopted a
principle, consciously or unconsciously in those days,
[that] if there was a chance of selling a copy of a
book, of a good book, I would buy it, figuring that
somebody in Hollywood, somebody in our community would
hear of it and would want it. Maybe it would be a
feather in our cap if we had it. And maybe our competi-
tion didn't have it. And it turned out thousands of times,
literally thousands of times where we were the only ones
in Southern California who ordered that particular book.
And we would get a call from someone, and they'd say,
"Well, I'm looking for this book. Nobody has it." "Well,"
I'd say, "we have it, and next time you start asking us
first." "Oh, you've taught me." We tied in a customer
But to go back to the men themselves, there were a
number of salesmen who were that knowledgeable of what
they were selling. I must criticize the modern, the younger
book representatives — and in that respect, I think, the house
they represent should be criticized, perhaps, rather than
they — because there is no longer that emphasis on the back-
list. By backlist, I hope you know what I'm talking about.
For anyone listening--if anyone listens-- [laughter] the
backlist means those books that were published anywhere
from last year to a hundred years ago, and the publisher's
still carrying that book, maybe in revised editions.
The younger men never try to sell you backlists. They don't
know their backlists; they're not the least bit interested
in even taking an order for backlist stock. Once a year,
maybe, their house will give them a list of some of their
back stock and ask them to take orders for it on a special
Jim Blake is one of the men — of course, he's gone a
great many years now — of whom I have a great and fond
memory as a person and as a teacher. I can mention a few
others. Louis Freedman, who at that time represented
Macmillan. There's another big house. Macmillan had an
entirely different policy. But they, too, had a tremen-
dous backlist. Louis knew his backlist. We didn't go
over the backlist as extensively with Louis Freedman as
I did with Jim Blake. But every time he came in, we took
a portion of it. Macmillan, at that time, when Louis was
there, had the good fortune, or the planning, or the books,
or the titles, or the ability to create a best seller every
season. (By season I mean the fall and Christmas season.)
Every season [they were] bringing out a best seller, pro-
moting it in such a way. The book was usually of very
high quality, and they would either have the best seller
or very close to the top of it. Now, Louis would come
in with the book that they had for that fall (fiction as
a rule; they had one major fiction, one nonfiction) , a
fiction book, would come in and say, addressing me, "I
want you to buy a hundred copies of the book." I'd say,
"Are you out of your mind? A hundred copies of the book
for me? With the volume of business I do?" "You will
sell every one of them." "Well," I said, "Louis, I've
heard that story from a lot of salesmen." "Well," he said,
"I'm telling you." He said, "If you don't sell them, I'll
take them back." Well, in those days the return policies
were not as liberal as they are today. Now practically
everything is returned. In those days, they didn't allow
you to return very many. Maybe some publishers had a
policy, a certain proportion of value of what you bought
for the season or the year. And they used to allow maybe
5 percent, which was nothing if you got stuck with a big
buy. He said, "If you don't sell them, I will take them
back." Well, 75 percent of the time, he was right. We
sold them. We didn't sell a whole fifty or a hundred,
but whatever he sold us, the carryover past the Christmas
season--if it was a good book it would carry on till the
spring--would usually take care of that. He was accused
of being a hard-sell man, and in some ways he was. But if
you learned to read him, and fought back in certain areas,
you got along with him. But he was very knowledgeable,
and he could dissect a book and tell you why it will sell.
And he had ideas of selling. He is still active, but he
doesn't make many calls himself. He has three or four
people working under him, but he's going to retire, I
think, at the end of this year or next year. He rep-
resented the Cambridge University Press after he left
Macmillan. He left Macmillan and went to work for
other — Macmillan came in with a new group of executives;
it separated from the British company. Macmillan of
America is not related to the Macmillan of England any-
more. So he went and he represented other publishers —
which were totally unlike Macmillan, but he did a good
job with them. We're very good personal friends. When-
ever we get together, we have dinner together; we visit
back and forth.
There were several whom I will mention. Harrison
Leusler--his nickname was "the sheriff of Petaluma." I
heard the story once, but I've forgotten how he started
being called the sheriff. I think he adopted western
clothes, so his eastern counterparts named him. He, again,
was a totally different kind of salesman than the others,
but still extremely knowledgeable of every book on the
Houghton Mifflin list. But he had one fault: he got
carried away by his own enthusiasm for every Houghton
Mifflin book that they ever put out. It was the best book;
it's going to be the best seller; it's going to be the big-
gest book. And until you learned how to fight back, how to
resist his pressures, you would have a little bit of trouble.
Once I learned to read him, we got along beautifully. Oh,
we would have almost fistfights, but we were good friends.
He would come in, and he would sit there and give you the
story of every book. He was one of the few that read every
book on his list for that season. And he would give you
the whole story of it. You had to be patient, just sit
there and listen patiently, but he had an honor about him.
If you wavered on the line, and he wanted to sell you
twenty-five or fifty or a hundred, then you could maybe
make a bargain with him--and will he pay the freight back
if they don't sell? Which he very often did. But he was
a very honorable person, and he did a good job. But until
you learned how to take him, he would be inclined to be
domineering. But once you sat down and cooled him down,
you got to know him. In every other way he was the finest
gentleman. His word was 100 percent. If he told you that
he would take them back, he would take them no questions
asked. Or if you pointed out to him that he misled you
about something, he would make it right. And occasionally,
he would unwittingly say something which might have misled
you. Of the three I spoke of, Harrison is gone, and Jim
Blake is gone.
Carl Smalley was a Kansan converted into a bookman who
was a very unusual character. He had a voice like a foghorn.
And when he laughed you could hear him a mile away [makes
noise like foghorn]. He was a very fine man. He had a great
appreciation for books, and he knew books. But he represented
a lot of very small publishers. He had one major pub-
lisher: he had Dutton for a while. Oh, he would come
in with about fifteen small publishers, university presses,
who had five books, six books, or eight books, or whatever.
And he had lines that nobody else would take. But usually
they would publish good books. And over the years he built
up a business which was remarkable in the sense that he
carried these lines which nobody else wanted to take and
built them up. They became better publishers and became
more knowledgeable publishers--especially the university
presses. Some of them became quite professional at it.
One of them, the University of Oklahoma, which he had,
was one of the most efficient presses of any publisher--
university press or other--in the whole country. I've al-
ways admired their way of doing business. They publish a
lot of western books. And we used to sell a lot of them.
We were their best account on the West Coast. And it was
because of the way Carl presented the line to me. I had a
certain interest, and I felt that our people would buy a
certain number of them. [tape stopped]
Now, to continue about the publisher's representatives
or publisher's salesmen. Ray Healy was one of the earliest
salesmen to call on me. As a matter of fact, he was amongst
the first group, that first year we decided to see salesmen.
A very fine Irishman, very religious. He taught me a great
deal about the book business. At that time, he had the
Modern Library, and he had Random House, and I think he
had Simon and Schuster, too. He had a lot of very good
lines for those days. And we did a tremendous amount of
business together, became very good friends--and had our
usual fights, just proving my theory that if you fight
with a man long enough, you will become very good friends.
It's true. If you remain adversaries long enough, you
get to know each other so well that you're eating together.
You may fight together, but you eat together. But he, too,
had an influence on my education as a new-book store man —
which, of course, is a totally different way of buying
books than old books.
There's one incident that I'd like to relate — I may
have related it to you before--when I first had the United
Jewish Welfare Fund, Hollywood Division, and our quota was
a half a million dollars to raise. This is the Ray Healy
I told you about--a very human person. And we still cor-
respond. He now lives in New Hampshire and comes back here
once in a while. When he does, we see each other.
Another chap who had some influence in teaching me
was Jess Carmack. Now, each one of those people I mentioned
sold me in the very first season when we decided to have
new books. And they all did something for me, to help guide
me — very honestly, too. And one of the reasons I love to
mention it is because there was a certain amount of trust
established between the representative of a line and the
buyer of a line, and that applies to many other trades,
too. A good representative for a company, selling for a
company, is a tremendous asset, both for the company and
the customer. If they are honest with each other, they
will maintain a relationship which promotes good business
for both of them. Jess Carmack--he lives now on San
Vicente in Santa Monica. We had dinner with them just
two Saturdays before last. He also was one of the early
ones. He represented Dodd, Mead; and later on he represented
Morrow and one or two other publishers. At that time there
weren't so many publishers' men representing one house, ex-
clusively. They were commission men, and they represented
two or three and sometimes four houses. But his principal
line at that time, I think, was Dodd, Mead. Dodd, Mead
didn't have anywhere near the catalog that Harper had,
but we went through the catalog again, and we picked up
the high spots. And he had a dictionary of music he was
selling at that time-- [Virgil] Thomson [Encyclopedia of
Music] ; I think they still publish it. And he brought it
out. At that time it was selling for eight dollars and a
half, which was a heck of a lot of money for a book in those
days. Well, I said, "Oh, Jess, who's going to pay me eight
dollars and a half?" "Well," he said, "Louis, you're not
going to sell very many of them, but every time you sell
one, it's going to make a beautiful tinkle in the cash
register." I never forgot that line. [laughter] And we
bought it, and we sold it. On my own, I never would have
chosen that book. But he convinced me that it sells, it's
staple stock. You won't sell too many, but if you sell one
of those, that was the equivalent of selling four novels
at two dollars apiece in those days--which is the total
amount of business. It's helped me in the sense that it
helped me create a good stock of merchandise where people
can find staples as well as best sellers. I think that
was one of our major strengths, right from the beginning.
There's a chap named Ellis Baker. He's now retired,
and he lives up in the Bay Area, Fremont. And I correspond
with him occasionally; occasionally I'll call him on the
telephone. He, too, is one of the old-timers. He used
to be a very heavy drinker. And when he was in his cups,
he had an ugly mouth. But he later gave up drinking and
almost became a reformer; then he wouldn't associate with
anyone that drank. He always used to travel with a chap
name of Charlie Johnson, who also called on me. And they
were great friends. But when he stopped drinking, he fell
out with Charlie Johnson because he wanted Charlie to stop
drinking. Charlie rarely drank to excess, but occasionally
he would drink to excess, but not the way Ellis would. And
he didn't react the same way that Ellis did. But Ellis was
a good book salesman, in spite of his faults. He represented
several good lines--Lippincott was one, and Winston, at that
time. We established a very nice rapport, and we got along
Drinking was an occupational hazard. These chaps
would go out on the road, away from their families, and
when their work was done at the end of the day, they would
either invite the buyers from the stores that they visited
to come have dinner and a drink with them, and the in-
clination would be to just sit there and drink.
TAPE NUMBER: XII, SIDE ONE
JULY 29, 1974
EPSTEIN: I mentioned Charlie Johnson. He was a very
hard-sell salesman. And although I liked him as a per-
son, I always dreaded sitting down to see his line be-
cause he bore down so hard and he was so difficult to
fight off. And he represented a good many lines, too,
so it would be almost an all-day fight by the time we
were through with him. But he was a very fine person.
After he got through, he would do anything for you, any-
thing. But when he was selling, it was just hammer, hammer,
hammer, just like I was the anvil and he was the hammer.
But he had an unfortunate ending. His wife had a
stroke, and for years she just lay there, almost as a
vegetable. And he, poor man, would come from a trip and
be faced with that. Eventually she died, and he married
again. But he was very sadly taken in his marriage. He
married a woman who wanted to be on the go all the time.
After a day's work, they'd go to nightclubs, and dancing.
And he was up in years--he was an old man--and he just
couldn't keep up the pace with her. Finally it ended in
a divorce. But I think his mind went before his body. The
last time he called on me, he was in such pitiful shape that
it was embarrassing to me, and we felt so sorry for him.
He tried to perform like he always did, but it just
wasn't there. It was just like watching a man in a prize
fight on TV sometimes. You know the man is through, had
no business going into that ring with a younger opponent
or whatever; he's taking a beating from the word go. And
that's the way it was watching him trying to sell. But he
died. I'm not sure that he was totally there when he died.
And I think of him, really, with a great deal of sorrow
because personally he was a great guy, a great host, but
his selling manner I didn't like. But he did a good job
in calling attention to the things he had. And he was very
successful. In addition to books, he had a line of toys.
He made a very great deal of money, but it all scattered
away with his bills, and second wife or whatever. But it
was very sad; it was very sad to see him on his last trip.
There was a very interesting chap by the name of Denny
Chase who used to be with Harcourt Brace, one of the very
early ones. Denny was a very finely educated man, probably
the most literary of all the people who called on me in
those days — although Jess Carmack had a degree in English
literature from Harvard. He knew his books. But Denny —
I don't know what college or university he went to, but he
was quite literary. He represented Harcourt Brace and one
other line. And he called on me for, oh, about ten, twelve
years. Then he retired. He inherited some money, and his
wife inherited some money, and they bought an island up in
the straits of Juan de Fuca near Seattle. And very
interesting. We visited him one time on the island. It
was really the kind of a life that I wouldn't care for,
but, oh, they just loved it. They were the only ones on
the island. It was about half a mile from shore, and they
had a nice house which he was constantly improving. And
they had a limited amount of water. But later I heard that
they got another good well. So, of course, that made the
island much more habitable. But they enjoyed it immensely.
I heard recently that he moved back to the mainland — I guess
because of medical reasons. He was getting up in years, I
Those are most of the old-timers. We had a number of
them who came on later--excellent bookmen, a good many of
them — like Ben Burke, who represented World Book Company.
Jim Wallace came a little later than the others; he rep-
resented Lippincott and Harcourt Brace. He took over
after Denny Chase left. A very fine man, he's just re-
cently retired--lives in the Valley. Jim is just a beauti-
Stuie Woodruff, who's now Raymar , was a salesman for
Doubleday, represented Doubleday at our store for quite a
while. He did an excellent job. He used to give us fan-
tastic service at Christmastime. He would, on his way down
down to Raymar — well, it wasn't Raymar then, it was Vroman's-
he would stop by at our place and see what Doubleday books
we needed. (Vroman's operated a separate wholesale business
then.) He'd do that three, four times a week during the
Christmas rush the last three, four weeks of the season.
And he would get our order in the morning, deliver it back
to us in his own car on the way back home in the evening.
He lived in the Valley. He did that. It was a tremendous
service, and it would be amazing how many dollars of extra
business you can pick up if you can get that kind of ser-
vice. At that time, no matter how smart you are in your
buying, you never knew how much or which ones the public
is going to want during the Christmas season. It's a very
frustrating time for most booksellers.
GARDNER: Can we talk about Raymar for a minute now?
EPSTEIN: I think we talked about Raymar.
GARDNER: Oh, did we talk about that?
EPSTEIN: Yeah. I'm quite sure we talked about Raymar.
GARDNER: In detail, really?
EPSTEIN: He and Fran Howell both had worked for Vroman .
When Stuie left Doubleday, he went to work for Vroman.
Well, he did other things, too. He and Fran were sales
managers for a record house — I think Warner Brothers — for
a couple of years. [tape stopped] [They wanted to be in
the] wholesale-book business, and they got some backing
from somewhere, and they opened Raymar--made a marvelous
success. They now have three places: one up in Bellingham,
Washington, and one in some town near Chicago for that area.*
* The Chicago area one recently was closed .-- [L.E. ]
And they're doing very well. They work on a very close
margin of profitability, but they're quite efficient.
They've developed a lot of new ideas, and they're a
great boon to any territory which they're in because
they carry quite a good stock. The booksellers depend
on them — especially smaller booksellers — for a great deal
of their supply. They're both very fine people. Raymar
is an acronym of the names of the wives, Raymone and Margaret:
Raymar. They twisted them around. Incidentally, they just
bought out the Ward Ritchie Press. And I haven't talked
to them. I don't know what their plans are for it, but
I imagine they plan to run it as a publishing arm.* With
their three major outlets, they could give them distribu-
tion. But I don't know. You can combine publishing with
wholesaling, and you begin to diffuse your energies and
your thinking, your executive powers. But so far they've
done an excellent job.
We're coming now to what I might call almost the second
generation of salesmen, apart from those fellows who were
the first to call on me. Amongst those, perhaps as prominent
as any, would be Errett Stuart. When I first met him, I was
still on Eighth Street. He had been in the service. He
came from St. Louis, and somehow or other, when I first
met him, he was working at the May Company book department.
* They are definitely running a publishing business.- [L.E.]
Occasionally he'd get a review copy of a book and come
rushing down to sell it to me. And we had a gag running be-
tween us that if it hadn't been for Louis Epstein being on
Eighth Street, and [his] rushing in and getting fifty cents
for the brand new book, he might not have survived. And I
said, "Yeah, but where in hell did I get fifty cents?"
[laughter] But he's an excellent salesman. He's still sell-
ing. He had Viking up until a couple of years ago. He lost
that; they hired their own salesman--which was a mistake. But
he got other lines. Now he has his two sons [Jeff and Terry]
working for him, and they've got a nice organization of com-
mission salesmen. They have several good lines. He's a very
nice man--nice family--and one of the people that we're very
friendly with and who really did an excellent job.
Ron Smith handles Abrams and several other lines. He came
out of the retail-book business. He worked for the Sather
Gate, up north, for a number of years. He left them and start-
ed selling as a commission salesman. He sold for Doubleday for
a while, I think, and he sold me for years and years and years.
Why he doesn't retire, I don't know. Well, I talked to him; we
discussed that. I saw him one day about two years ago crawling
around on the floor, checking paperbacks for some one of his
lines. And I said, "Ron, aren't you a little bit aged for do-
ing that kind of work?" "Well," he said, "as long as it has to
be done, I've got to do it." It's a good answer, but it wasn't
particularly healthy for him. But he says he feels fine
and all that/ but he's a little bit nervous. I hope
nothing happens to him till he does retire. He is a
good bookman — knows his books.
Bob Cohen is one of the later ones, representing
Random House. He came out here when Random House decided
to have their own man instead of a commission man. And
it was a little difficult at first. Very New Yorkish —
very house conscious, in the sense that he wanted all
the advantages for the house. I thought when he first
came around that he was asking too much for his house
and not giving too much to the customer — in various things.
We had our difficulties at first, one time a very serious
one. However, we straightened that out, and we've become
very good friends. And he changed his methods of selling.
As a matter of fact, I gave him a good long lecture on
that. I said, "Look, you may think you're doing a great
deal for your house, but you're not. You're making demands
on your customers which are unreasonable, and you're not
satisfying the reasonable demands of your customer." I
said, "In my opinion, all the good salesmen I ever knew
would fight my battles for me with their house. You do
just the reverse." And I told him I didn't think that was
good salesmanship; I didn't think eventually it would be
good for the house. Of course, he resented my telling him
that. But later we settled our differences, and he changed
his methods. And we became very good friends. He's a very
good friend of the family, Aaron's and Eugene's. As a
matter of fact we took them to dinner at Scandia on
their anniversary. They thought I was great. I thought
he just wasn't using good judgment, and I told him so. I
pointed out to him that every salesman on my list — I went
over all the old-timers--! said, "I can ask any one of them
to do certain things, and they will do them for me. You
always look on it as me demanding something from your house.
I am demanding something from your house. But I think I
have a right to demand certain things from your house. I
am a very demanding man," I told him. "I have to be. But
it's your job to transmit my demands." The controversy
came up about advertising. All the other publishers were
giving us certain allowances for cooperative advertising.
And he refused to do it. I said, "Okay, then I'll buy
just a minimal amount of that kind of merchandise." I
said, "Why should I take any less from you than I get from
so-and-so." "Well," he said, "We've got a better house.
It's our house's policy," and so forth. I said, "It was
the house policy of every one of these other publishers
until we convinced them that it would be to their advan-
tage to do these things. And you don't want to even trans-
mit these demands." I said, "Do you want me to call New
York?" I said, "I don't do that." I said, "I don't call
New York. But if you will give me permission, I will."
"No," he said, "You don't have to call New York." And little
by little he broke down. But it was a battle. He's
a firm-minded guy, but he's a nice guy. But he thought he
was doing the very right thing. I told him that he wasn't.
But all's well that ends well.
But this is a way we had to teach the salesmen cer-
tain things, and they taught us certain things. We created
a certain type of business at Pickwick. We created a
certain type of promotions--which were to the advantage
of the Pickwick but they were also to the advantage of
the publishers. And it was a very rough go to try to
convince them to give us, say, $200, $500, for an ad.
That will benefit us, but it will also benefit them.
And a few of them were willing to go along with us and
give us a trial. And it was, on the whole, very suc-
cessful. And now they're all doing it--not only doing
it for Pickwick, but they're doing it for others. So
we created something that benefited the whole indus-
try. But we had to fight like hell for it.
It was my contention--if you'll allow me to diverge--
that if Pickwick advertised a book, every bookstore in
the area would get the same benefit of that ad as the
Pickwick did. So although the Pickwick was given an al-
lowance to run that ad, on a certain number of dollars, the
publisher wasn't giving it to the Pickwick alone, really. Because
Bob Campbell's customers weren't about to call me for
that book. They're smart enough to know that Bob would
have it. Vroman ' s customers are not going to call from
Pasadena for it. And the people living in Long Beach
who read the Times weren't going to call me from Long
Beach. Or May Company's customers. And we went right
down the line. And those who were a little bit open-
minded--well, it's something they'd never done before.
And it never was explained to them that way before. So
finally, one or two of them tried it, and they found out
that that's exactly what happened. Every store in town
got benefit of that ad. It was proven to them by the
phone orders that started coming into Vroman. The minute
they saw that ad Monday morning, the wholesale house would
start getting calls for that book because the bookstores
started getting calls for that book. And it was proven —
I think the most dramatically--with Ron Smith, Arco. I
think I mentioned that before.
GARDNER: Yes, you told the story.
EPSTEIN: That was so dramatic that we used that as an
example to the publishers time and time again. Now it's
just a matter of course. They call up — would we please
run an ad for them? It's a complete turnaround. And that
was where one of the major differences with Bob Cohen was
when we first came out here. Aaron had a great deal to do
with that program — with, of course, the backing of ourselves.
A very fine salesman who called on me for many years
is Jim Pike, a very reserved guy, from, I think, Philadel-
phia, who had McKay and Putnam. He's since given up Putnam.
A very reserved guy, a very fine person who had a semisoft
sell. But he tried to do the best thing he could for his
customers, and if anything came up between us and the house,
why, he tried his best to get it settled. We always worked
with the salesmen first, rather than writing to the house.
It's only when the house didn't back their salesman that
we went directly, usually on attack for not backing their
salesmen. Or they knew what they were talking about, that
this is a problem we should be able to settle with the
salesmen and not have to write you about. If he represents
your line, he should be given some authority. It's one of
the problems with a lot of the salesmen that call on the
stores today. They're sent out; they're green, have no
authority to act responsibly on anything. "Well, I'll
have to call the house." And this takes time; they for-
get. The house gives them an offhand answer and causes
a great deal of anguish--and delays for the booksellers.
But Jim was one of the very nice people.
There was Jim Nourse and Floyd Nourse. One of the
earliest people that I should have mentioned before is
Jim Nourse 's father, Jim and Floyd's father, Jim, Sr. He
used to sell me. About the time I started buying, he sold
me for one or two seasons, and then Errett Stuart went to
work for him. Then Errett started selling me. They rep-
resented Knopf, and Viking, and Harlem Book Company, a
remainder house. Is that four lines? I forget what the
other was. Later they broke up, and Errett got Viking
and Harlem, and Nourse got Knopf — and who else? I forget
who else. At any rate, originally the older gentleman
sold me. Then later Jim sold me, Jim, Jr.
And I remember the first time he came to call on me.
He had just gotten out of the service. He had been a
flier, and from what I hear — what I found out later--quite
a heroic one. He was in the drink a couple of times, res-
cued, and went right back flying. He never mentioned it,
never talked about it. And I remember the first time he
called on me. The poor youngster was so worried — well,
not worried, but nervous. He had his talk all made up.
And every time I asked him a question, it would stop the
flow of his talk, and he had to start over again. He sort
of memorized his speech, and I always kid him about that.
I ask him if he still forgets his speech. And he became a
good man. Then he and his brother now represent several
publishers. They're doing an excellent job. And they did
The father made a lot of money in real estate up around
Los Altos or San Carlos — or somewhere up there in the Bay
Area. The boys are quite well-to-do, but extremely nice,
This is sort of another family affair. There's a
chap name of John Storm I should mention. His widow is
presently the manager of the Hollywood Pickwick Bookstore.
And I knew him first v/hen he had a little tiny store on
VJest Sixth Street, west of Vermont. He had come out from
Chicago and attempted to start a store, quite small, and
I don't think he quite made it. He went back to Chicago
and somehow got a job selling for a publisher. He rep-
resented several houses. He did a good job for quite a
number of years, but the poor chap died before his time.
In one of those pictures I have, I think I showed you
where we're playing poker at a bookman's field day, and
we're all three of us — Ben Burke, and he, and I — so in-
tensely watching our cards. Well, I'm the only one left
of those three in that picture.
Bob MacDonald is one of the older men who did a very
good job with me, representing Prentice-Hall. He had been
in the book business for many years in the city before he
went with Prentice-Hall. He was with the Los Angeles News
Company in the days when the Los Angeles News Company was
the only wholesaler out here. They were a part of the
American News Company, which was a national chain of whole-
salers of magazines and books and various kinds of sta-
tionery. After he left the News Company, he went to work
for Prentice-Hall. He did an excellent job for them. And
I see him occasionally.
Bill McCullough is the nephew of Harrison Leusler and
took over the territory when Harrison retired. Unlike his
uncle, he was not a hard-sell salesman, but he was a good
salesman, [with a] very nice, nice personality. He has a
territory in the San Francisco area. He gets down here
once in a while, and we meet.
Ernie Greenspan has Crown and the Crown-related com-
panies of reprints, Outlet--a very, very large business.
He, too, is not one of the first-generation salesmen but
the second generation. He does an excellent job, and he
helped us a great many ways on developing remainders and
learning to advertise remainders. And he fulfilled, again,
that purpose of teaching us, and he would learn a great deal
from us--what happens after we advertise a remainder, which
ones move and which ones don't. And we created a different
kind of ad. They used to have these ads made up for re-
mainders mostly run by department stores. When we first
wanted to run an ad, that's exactly the kind of an ad they
wanted us to run. I said, "No." I said, "That's not the
kind of an ad I want." I said/ "I don't like their mix of
books, either. You have much better books, from my point
of view, to advertise than those that they advertise." They
would advertise forty-nine-cent fiction. I said, "I'm not
interested in advertising forty-nine-cent fiction. It
doesn't mean a thing to me. I don't think it would mean
much to my customers. We've got a different type of trade."
Well, by give and take, we told them what we wanted, and
they learned on their own that we could do a better job
by our own selections than the prearranged selections that
they made up for department stores. The department store
buyers were not knowledgeable enough of books to make up
their own ad. And the buyers would change every year in
some areas, every three years, and there's no continuity
of knov/ledge built up in a department store--or rarely.
And in that respect, again proving the principle that one
learns from the other. Ernie still calls, does a big
business with the people.
Another one of the second generation, as I would call
it, is Arthur Babcock, a very fine chap who did a good job.
He was almost colorless in a good many ways. But he knew
how to sell, even without the color. He was extremely
honest about what he wanted to sell you. If he didn't
think that you could sell a book and you wanted it, you
almost had to beg him to sell you a copy. Of course, in
my case, I always bought, well, less than what they tried
and more of what they didn't try. But he's retired, too,
There's a young--not young anymore- -woman by the name
of Betty Gaskill who calls on us, one of the few women
publisher's representatives in the trade, a very enthusias-
tic person. She had a little bookstore in Van Nuys for a
number of years — she and her husband. She became a widow,
and she became a salesperson for a publisher. She was one
of the first that ever showed up around here. And she's
doing an excellent job--a very enthusiastic person.
Then, you might say, just for the record, I should
mention Jim Mottola, who sold here for McGraw-Hill for a
niomber of years — a very fine salesman. He knew his lines,
and he knew how to sell. He's now in the Chicago area.*
Frank Scioscia. A great many people, maybe, in UCLA might
know Frank. He was quite a literary person. He had a nice
library of books, which he sold when he left here. He went
to work for Harper's and sold them for a while. He's from
the Northwest. I think he worked for J.K. Gill for a while
and was an excellent salesman, really was. Now he's with
Harper's in the home office. I don't know exactly his posi-
tion, but of course he still has something to do with sell-
ing. Unfortunately I heard that he recently had a heart
attack. I wrote him. I haven't heard any answer, and I
hope he's getting along well.
Lou Eaton, I should mention. Lou Eaton started, I
believe, working for World Book Company. I think he married
a daughter of the owner of the firm. And Ann and I met him
for the first time at a convention in Chicago, I believe it
was — at the convention there. And we were introduced. And
a look came over his face. We were talking for a little
Mottola recently died.-- [L.E. ]
while, and he pulls me aside, sits me down over somewhere.
We sat down, and he said, "I can't help but tell you that
you have exactly the same name as I have. My name is Louis
Epstein, too." He said he went to work selling bibles. At
that time. World Publishing Company was the biggest pub-
lisher of bibles in the country. And they had their sales-
men go out. And he had the southern territory, and he said,
"How the hell was I going to get into the door with the name
Louis Epstein?" So he changed it to Lou Eaton. But I think
any knowledgeable person would recognize him after he had
talked to him a few minutes.
Eddie Ponger was a very nice person who is no longer
in this territory. He represented Simon and Schuster here
for a number of years--a very nice man, quite a lot younger
than I was. He became a good friend of the family; he and
Aaron and the others all got along. He likes to tell the
story about the way I worked in comparison to the way some
other booksellers work. He said that even at my age — and
I was in my sixties--that with his line the buyers of a
department store or some other store would ask for two
days to look it over. But, he said, I always went all
through it in one day--with all my interruptions. And
he said many times when he was all worn out at five o'clock,
and nowhere near finished, that I would insist that we con-
tinue, that he had to drag himself home. I suppose that's
a little bit apocryphal, but it's a good story.
Jack Dawley, who represents Simon and Schuster now —
who took Eddie Ponger's place with Simon and Schuster —
before that was with Harper. Jack Dawley was with Harper;
he was hired by Frank Scioscia. Jack is one of the first
black salesmen in the West. He does an excellent job--a
very fine person — and he is the kind of person that could
go anywhere if he wasn't black. But I suppose that even
in the publishing business, a number of areas are still
closed to him. But he still — he's about middle-aged now —
has a lot of opportunity. And he may go back to Harper.
There's some little bit of rumor that he might go back;
I don't know. He's doing an excellent job and is a good
friend of ours.
Georgie Kellogg, George Kellogg, represented Grosset
and Dunlap for a great many years out here and did a good
job. A peculiar character, he was almost too frank with
his bosses. They never gave him the recognition that he
should have had, I think because he was overly frank with
them. In other words, if he saw something wrong, he stepped
right out and said it, and sometimes you just can't do that
in a large organization. But he did an excellent job of
selling. He's now retired, enjoys his fishing, and I men-
tioned him because he was a good salesman and he had been
around for a long time.
Bill Webb has been selling for about fifteen years,
but I still call him one of the younger men. And he's
an extremely literate person. He represents a niunber of
houses--Watson-Guptill , which sells a lot of art books,
how-to art books. He does a good job. He's a forceful
seller, sometimes too forceful. But on the whole, we had
a satisfactory relationship between the Pickwick and he,
and he depended on me for a great deal of what he learned.
He told me so. And I think I mentioned before a number of
the people said, "Well, I always go sell Louie first, be-
cause by the time I get through selling Louie, I've learned
my line" — which may or may not be true. (They all called me
Louie.) I told what I thought of the line, anyway. At
least, by the way I bought, they knew what I liked. And
I think I was probably as good a bellwether as anybody.
Bill Chaffee, I haven't mentioned yet, I don't think.
Bill was around for quite a number of years. He sold a
niamber of publishers, including Bobbs-Merrill . A very
aggressive salesman, inclined to be hard sell. He did a
good job, but I'm not positive that he was totally happy
in the book business. But he did well. He was with the
Nourse boys for a while. But he had a disagreement with
one of the publishers he represented, and they sort of
forced him out of that organization, out of the Nourse
group. They told him that if Bill was going to continue
to sell the line, that they would have to give up the line —
which, of course, they didn't want to do, so Bill was asked
to resign. Which was a terrific blow to his ego, and I
knew about what type of argument it was. It was a clash
of personalities. Bill was sometimes a little pugnacious,
and that affected his relationship with people. But on
the whole he's a very fine man, and I still maintain a
very nice friendship with him. He's retired, living at
Sedona, Arizona, in that valley that runs right through
from Prescott. As you go from Prescott to Flagstaff, you
go through part of it. And I talk to him on the telephone
A young man name of Ernest Callraan — I still call him
a young man. He used to work for me and went to selling.
And then there are a number of others I could mention, like
Herb Chapin was a newer person, Harry Smith, Mel Dir, Fred
Hill, George Corey, Geoffrey Barr, Bill Reynolds.
Bill Reynolds — I have a little story about him. A
great churchman, when he first started calling on us, he
represented a religious house. Then he represented the
Harper religious line, and then he had another religious
line. Later he went to work selling trade books, and his
job was combined out of the job in some way or other by
some new setup in the selling. So he got a job selling
Lippincott, which, of course, is a regular trade house.
And about a year and a half ago, I parked in back of the
Pickwick, and he parked in back of the Pickwick with a
woman. And he introduced me to her. And then we went
into the shop, and she was to autograph books. And a
most unlikely woman to ever find with a character such
as Bill Reynolds — she was a woman who shot her husband,
who was a collector of guns up around San Jose. The case
was in the papers. She claimed she shot him in self-defense,
and they found a whole arsenal in this home. I talked to
him about it later. I said, "Well, I am not keeping my eye
on you, so here you go with company such as that."
Oh, I should mention Russell Goodrich, who was around
for years and years — a very fine chap who sold Merriam-
Webster dictionaries who is now retired. Henry Caster sold
Doubleday for a number of years out here. Dave Bramble used
to live down the hill here for a while. He was a salesman
whose wife inherited a lot of money. So he went out of the
bookselling business. Joe Carroll, who represented Scribner--
a very fine, very religious Irish Catholic. He did a good
job of selling Scribner. Well, he's long gone now. Al
Doering, who was the general manager for Grosset on the
West Coast, was an excellent salesman. He, poor guy, is
gone. Oh, Bill Gordon, Wilmot Gordon, who represented
Oxford University Press for years--one of the finest gentle-
men, a real gentleman, a good salesman, knew how to sell,
soft sell, and did an excellent job. He lives part time
in Mexico and part in Pasadena. Herb Chapin is relatively
new; Frank Corsello is relatively new. Helen Kosick, who
was for years with the Los Angeles News Company: later,
when that went out of business, she went to work for Dial
Delacorte. And she called on the trade for a while. Bob
Wilkie's one of the newer men. George O'Hara represents
World. He's represented, over the years, many different
houses. He called on me only a few years, but I've known
him for a great many years. And my wife says — that's her
theory--he was responsible for me getting involved with the
ABA, that he was the one that called to the attention of
the office of the ABA: "We've got a good man here for the
board." Ted Moss, who's now sales manager for Dial, sold
us for a while. Bill Maher. These are all names that
should be in the records somehow or other. A chap by the
name of Harry Smith first sold me paperback. He originally
sold me reprints when I was still on Eighth Street. I'm
sure I left out some people, but I think I've got most of
the important gentlemen--and some of them are really fine
gentlemen. They're all nice men, but some were more pol-
ished than others. Karl Placht — I think I mentioned him
in connection with Brentano's. He later became a salesman,
represented Button for a great many years. Let's see, Louis
Freedman, I told you about. Oh, Jack O'Leary represented
Doubleday for a while here; now he's a big man in the head
TAPE NUMBER: XII, SIDE TWO
AUGUST 13, 1974
GARDNER: Today I'd like to talk first about the Southern
California Booksellers Association. I know you don't have
all the dates on hand. tVhat brought the group together?
What sorts of problems brought the group together?
EPSTEIN: Well, the Southern California Booksellers Associa-
tion was one of those intermittent things that would start
up when some occasion presented itself or some emergency
came up, such as postage rates or police action about pornog-
raphy, or — as in the last case — the advertising program
called "Cavalcade of Books." That started perking around
1951, and they came around to us — Jack and Frances Case.
Jack Case was an advertising man in the city, very well
known. He's in his eighties now and lives down near, oh,
San Juan Capistrano somewhere, now.* But he was an Olympic
champion hurdler way back around 1912 or '16 — I forget which
of the two. A very fine person, he'd been in the advertis-
ing business. His wife was Frances Case, a very promotional-
minded woman and a very aggressive type of businesswoman.
And the two of them came up with the idea of having a tele-
vision program about books. And they brought it to two or
three of us, brought the program to mind. None of us really
thought it would go over, but because they were willing to
* Jack Case has since died. — [L.E.]
put in their time and effort, we said, well, we would
gamble a few hundred dollars each. I believe it was
Vroman's of Pasadena, and myself. Bob Campbell, and
Fowler, I think, and Walter Martindale. We each put
in relative amounts of money--not the same amount, but
how much we were willing to risk. There was no profit
to us, except that if we got a program, which would be
supported mostly by the publishers' advertising allowances,
it would do us all good. But we didn't think that the pub-
lishers would come across to that extent, to make it feasi-
ble and worthwhile for the Cases to put in their time and
effort. But they were good promoters and very hard workers,
and they got the thing going. And for a couple of years
the booksellers, some of us booksellers, put in some money.
But to get the backing for the program, they revital-
ized the Southern California Booksellers Association. Now
this is not to be confused with the Southern California
Antiquarians. This was the new-book sellers. It got the
program started. Jack did a lot of excellent work on it
and excellent promotion. They planned it very nicely, and
for a while the program went over big. It was new, it had
a lot of new faces on it, and it was an interesting program —
not for the literary person, necessarily, but for the liter-
ate viewer of TV. The "Cavalcade of Books" would have guests
on it, usually the authors of the books, or, if it was an
unusual book, maybe some outside guest of prominence to
review that particular book. The program itself — well,
we have a copy of one of their programs here. They would
review about four or five books, and they would have two
reviewers. They started off with Georgiana Hardy, who is
presently on the school board, retiring next year. She was
one of the reviewers.
I knew Georgiana for many years, and I knew her hus-
band iJack] before I knew her. He was a customer of mine
when he was a very young lawyer. He was in one of those
buildings downtown with the cheaper rent, and he used to
come and buy books from us. And I remember when he was
first going with Georgiana. And he, poor man, died much
too early in his life. She became a widow. We were quite
friendly, and whenever a campaign for her came up, why, I
did what I could to help her--including furnishing her with
a little bit of money; it's the lifeblood of a political
But she was one of the early reviewers. And you notice
on this program that I have here, one of the reviewers was
Everett Noonan. Well, Everett was one of our salespeople.
But he had a flair for the theatrical and had once been a
hoofer, a minor hoofer. He liked to talk to groups. And
he was one of the early reviewers--did a good job. It was
a field that was entirely new — they had to make their way--
and they built up the program very, very nicely until it
reached a peak. And the peak arrived when the publishers
would use their advertising allowances for books — instead
of to a general program, they switched over to direct ads
in the newspapers under the name of some bookstore, such
as the Pickwick. I mean, we were responsible for building
the program up, we and other booksellers. But in my mind,
we were also responsible for its demise, because when we
started the program of publicity and advertising for the
publishers, they had less money to spend on the "Cavalcade."
And the "Cavalcade," to be honest, really became a little
monotonous. The format was the same. There was not a great
deal of room to vary format, because if they had to cover
six, seven, or eight books in a half an hour, there wasn't
very much they could do except name the books, tell a little
story. And if they gave one book too much time, then the
publisher of that book was dissatisfied with it and com-
plained. So they had to be always walking on a tightrope.
They served their purpose, and they did a good job. But
like so many things, after they'd been aroxond a while, the
public gets tired of looking. And also there was the
pressure for publishers' money from the Pickwick and all
the other booksellers who were now doing more individual
advertising. The Pickwick established a formula — Aaron
developed that over a period of time, from one step to
another. So we sort of drew away a lot of the available
money for that "Cavalcade of Books" program. It took a little
while, but the publishers gave it good support for a while.
Then it began to drop off a little bit. They were unhappy
how much time they got; they were unhappy how their book
was treated; they were unhappy how the reviewer reviewed
it--or whatever. All kinds of little things can happen
in a relationship which is a bought relationship.
So the "Cavalcade of Books" was really the prime reason
for the revival of the Booksellers Association at that time.
It's still going on. They give two dinners a year--a spring
dinner and a fall dinner--and the booksellers get together,
have a good time. They h.'^va a fev7 authors speaking. But
it's not a public program at all now. It's good to have
the organization available in case something stirs. But
without a cause, it's hard to keep an organization to-
gether— which you probably know — and sometimes it drags a
little bit. And the hard-to-find good of f icers--those who
are most capable, maybe, are too busy. But it's going on.
They keep an active organization. We all pay dues, and
there's money in the bank to supplement the dinner. They
have a good time, and a few drinks. That was '51, '52 when
the Cases started that program.
GARDNER: What sort of issues and causes kept the organiza-
tion together, then, after the "Cavalcade of Books" folded?
EPSTEIN: Just promoting these dinners, and still promo-
tion for the "Cavalcade." And when the "Cavalcade" ceased,
why, the organization went on, just to give a couple of
dinners a year, really, and get together once in a while
in a business meeting and discuss problems. But even
those, we haven't been doing too much lately. The dinner
is about the only activity that they're having now. The
salesmen are invited, publisher's representatives, and
usually they have a couple hundred people show up, and
about three, four good speakers — authors whose books are
presently current — and have a good time. If anything
comes up that's dangerous to the book trade, we have an
organization that is ready to act if necessary. There
have been a lot of problems in the book business, but none
of the type that an organization can discuss. The organiza-
tions have to be extremely careful what they discuss; we
can't discuss discoiints. It's against the law.
GARDNER: Because of price fixing.
EPSTEIN: Price fixing. We can't discuss publisher terms.
We can discuss things that are wrong--poor packing, or
poor shipping, or late shipping, those types of problems —
but not anything that relates to the actual cost or sale
price of merchandise. So that eliminates a lot of dis-
cussion. A lot of that is done, of course, but in the
cloakroom, you might say, one to one. You can't talk to
two people about it. Even to one, you can't say, "Well,
look, if you price your book this price, I'll price mine
the same," or, "You quit buying from this man and I'll quit
buying; maybe it'll force down his price." Can't talk that.
GARDNER: But does that happen?
EPSTEIN: It happens in all business; of course, it happens.
But it's never serious to the extent that: "We should do this,"
but nobody says, "Let's do this." There's a difference. You
can talk in the air: "Publishers are charging us too much
money." Or, "Their discount is too small; we should get 43 per-
cent instead of 40." "We should be getting . . . ." But no-
body actually says, "Well, let's stop buying unless we get 43."
Or, "Don't trade with this publisher." There's a line between
the legal and the illegal, and we try not to tread across the
So far there has been only one suit that I remember that
the Federal Trade Commission has filed against publishers,
and that was when a number of large publishers startea pub-
lishing library editions. They had been publishing library
editions, but they were selling them through wholesalers.
There were certain special wholesalers who would buy these li-
brary editions, or buy the sheets and put on their own binding.
And the publishers adopted a schedule of discounts — every
publisher exactly on the same sliding scale. A retail book-
seller couldn't buy those books at that discount. He had to
be in a certain business and buy certain quantities, and the
retail bookseller was practically frozen out of that edition.
You've seen them — mostly children's books in heavy bindings
for libraries. From the beginning, I recognized it as
totally illegal — not that we wanted to handle any of those
editions because we never did get a discount on them.
But at least, even if we wanted them now, we couldn't
get any discount--or nowhere near the discount that the
other people were getting. Well, one of the booksellers —
somewhere in Toledo, Ohio, I think — brought suit. He
brought suit, for one thing, because he was excluded.
Then the libraries got smart, and the libraries brought
suit. They collected several million dollars from the
publishers. And the publisher was guilty as hell. They
were very, very stupid in the way they handled it. And
now they're very, very careful what they do about their
discount schedules. It has to be all the same to all,
and they can't exclude anybody from doing business.
GARDNER: What is the relationship of the Southern
California Booksellers to the ABA?
Just a very young stepchild.
It is, though. . . .
No affiliation. No official affiliation, no.
The American Booksellers Association has no
GARDNER: Oh, I see. So, in other words, a bookstore owner
becomes a member of both, really.
EPSTEIN: Right, right. He becomes a member of the local,
and then he becomes a member of the national.
GARDNER: As opposed to with the Antiquarians, isn't the
EPSTEIN: Yes. The Antiquarians has chapters. The ABA
encourages regional groups, but it's not responsible for
them. The ABA very much encourages groups to organize--
and they'll sometimes help them organize--but they do not
become officially a branch. In other words, a group of
ABA members in Southern California can get together and
do the things that the ABA might suggest, but they are not
a branch of the ABA. They're a regional group of members;
they have no official standing. But ABA cooperates. Like,
we have a regional meeting of the ABA from time to time.
Well, the local members get together, form a committee,
and it's practically the same committee as the local
Southern California Booksellers Association, practically
the same group. But they have no official capacity. The
Southern California group of booksellers has no official
connection with the ABA. But when necessary, they will
do work for the ABA, because they're the same people in-
volved. Practically everyone in the Southern California
Booksellers Association is a member of the American Book-
sellers Association. It's a wise policy for the American
Booksellers, the national ABA, to follow, because other-
wise they would have to police all these regional things
and it would take away from their main aim, what they're
I have here a few notes of some of the original people,
I here have a copy of the minutes of the August 28, 1952:
"A Report of the Reorganization Coininittee, presented to
the August 28, 1952, meeting of the Southern California
Booksellers Association. The Reorganization Committee
recommends the following . . ." — president, vice-president,
and so forth — . . . "these five members will comprise the
Board of Directors. The following members are recommended
for nomination to these offices: a) President, Louis Epstein;
b) Vice-President, Paddy Paddock; c) Secretary, Otis Yost;
and d) Treasurer, Lloyd Severe; e) Bob Campbell"--! don't know
what his title is. It's something or other.
GARDNER: Where were Paddy Paddock and Otis Yost from? I
don't remember those names.
EPSTEIN: Paddy Paddock — I've never considered him really
serious as a bookseller. He had a stationery store and
bookstore in Glendale. And he carried a stock of books,
but stationery was his principal business. But he's a very
aggressive young man--at the time, young. And he talked
well and so forth, so they made him an officer. He later
became very much involved in Republican politics in Glendale.
I don't think he ever ran for office, but he became very
political. One time, at a meeting, he started making what
most of us thought was a political speech, and we piped
GARDNER: What about Otis Yost? I don't recall that name.
EPSTEIN: Otis Yost at that time was working for Vroman ' s .
GARDNER: I notice that announcement is on Vroman ' s letter-
head, for the record.
EPSTEIN: Yes. Vroman ' s was very much involved then. Well,
at that time Vroman 's was the major wholesaler here. Otis
later became a salesman for Harper and moved up to the Bay
Area. And he still is. We just saw him here a few months
ago at a function, and he was very happy to see me.
Of course, Lloyd Severe was very much involved for
many, many years. He was involved both in the group and
also in the Jack Case program, the "Cavalcade of Books." He
later became financially involved in it. He was with
Brown's Book Store, in Pasadena, and then left them later;
he retired from there, and went to work for Jack Case. See,
Frances Case died, and she was one of the principal workers.
She had carried at least half of the load of the whole thing.
So when she died, Jack had to have some help. Lloyd Severe
helped him a lot. Lloyd has helped in everything in Southern
California bookselling. He was very dedicated to the book
business as a business. And he deserves a lot of credit
for keeping this thing going.*
I don't know what else I can tell you about the Southern
California Booksellers. They paid their bills. They went
along. And we had good support from all the bookstores
of Southern California. Let me see what's here.
* Gladys and Lloyd recently had a sixtieth wedding anniver-
sary which Ann and I attended. — [L.E.]
Leslie Hood was very much involved, set up some committees,
The Publishers Relations Committee was Leslie Hood, chair-
man. He was Vroman ' s , you know. One time, way back, he
was with the Los Angeles News Company; that was many years
ago. But Vroman 's had a wholesale house, and he ran it.
Tough guy, but he was a pretty good bookseller.
On the Publishers Relations Committee — Leslie Hood,
Walter Martindale, Bob Campbell, Virgil Ruick. I think
you heard me mention Virgil before. He was with Fowler's.
A very fine man, very fine man. He died much too early.
The Publicity Committee was Harry Shelton--he also
was one of the owners of Vroman ' s--and Mrs. [Marjorie]
Dysinger of Whittier Book Shop, and Bob Campbell. The
Membership Committee is Paddy Paddock, Otis Yost, [Willard]
Marriner (Marriner has a bookstore down in the Laguna area
somewhere; I don't know whether his bookstore still exists
or not), Lee Scott (I think he, too, was a salesman for
Vroman' s), Mr. [Richard J. ] Pick of Pick's Book Shop in San
Bernardino. He's long since retired. Well, that gives
you pretty much the story of the Southern California Book-
GARDNER: Well, maybe next we can talk about your partic-
ipation in the ABA.
EPSTEIN: Oh, my. I think my wife could tell you probably
more about that than I.
GARDNER: How far back does it date, first of all?
EPSTEIN: Membership dates way back, but the participation
dates back about thirteen years. Let's see, let's go back-
wards. Well, my memory for dates has never been good.
GARDNER: Why don't we turn it off for a second. [tape
EPSTEIN: You asked me about my activities in the American
Booksellers Association, and how did they come about. Like
all those things, they evolved. Number one, I was active
in the local group, and a certain amount of publicity
reaches out and gets into the Publisher' s Weekly, and the
name becomes a little known. One of the principal things
that might have caused the directors of the American Book-
sellers Association to think of me as a future director was
an event that occurred in 1955 which was under the auspices
of the American Booksellers Association. It was what they
call a regional meeting. They started program meetings in
various areas of the country, and all the members of the
American Booksellers Association would gather, and they'd
have a business meeting for one day or two days. In this
instance, I think it was a two-day meeting. And you know,
we'd have a dinner, and all the booksellers would get to-
gether. And the executive director of the ABA came out,
and his secretary, and they'd tell us how to set up the
meetings. And they had discussion panels of various topics,
I was on one of the panels. And it was a panel pertaining
to discounts, and, well, primarily to shipping, receiving,
and so forth. A lot of things overlapped, but what we were
talking about were the problems the booksellers had with
the publishers, that, if they would do certain things — do
better bookkeeping, do better reporting — the trade as a
whole would benefit. They would benefit just as much as
the publishers. The waste of time that lack of system
creates — that time wasted, that effort wasted, writing
back and forth, not having the invoice on time, and all
these many, many problems — poor packing. And I was on
one of the panels. Not only was I on one of the panels,
but I participated quite a good deal in discussion. And
I spoke out. I probably spoke out maybe more than I should
have, but I felt very strongly about those things. I ex-
pressed my opinion, and I didn't hesitate to criticize. I
mean, I tried to make the criticism fair. But you get car-
ried away, apparently. You know, you start building up a
case the same as anyone else.
But at any rate, I must have left a good impression on
the executive director, and George O'Hara, who was at that
time one of the salesmen — I think at that time he was with
Farrar Rinehart--came to me after the meeting. And he said,
"Louis, you did a marvelous job." I was chairman of the
panel, and I had participated. He said, "You did a mar-
velous job with that panel." And he was good friends with
Joe Duffy. Duffy was the executive director. And I think
he must have spoken to Duffy--and I got along very well
with Duffy, too. Duffy also congratulated me on how well
I handled myself. By no means am I a speaker, but I speak
out when I have to. Now, a few months later, I was in-
vited to be on the board of the American Booksellers Associa-
tion. I think I started on the board in 1956. And then I
stayed on the board. I became an officer, a vice-president,
second vice-president, and so forth. Finally, in 1964, I
was elected president.
And when I would go back to meetings two or three times
a year, go back to New York, the people on the board of the
American Booksellers Association — at least the board that
I sat on all along — we worked very hard. And we took all
the problems very seriously. When I first came on the
board, we had very little money; the organization had very
little money because the expenses would eat up the dues.
We had to keep a permanent office in New York. Well, it's
a national organization. The mailings, and whatever — a lot
of expenses. And we ran the convention. Our principal
source of income was not from dues, but from the profits
of the convention. Well, for quite a while the profits
of the convention were very slim. But as the book business
expanded — during that period between the late fifties or
early sixties and the seventies, the book business has ex-
panded tremendously. I don't know if you're aware of that:
the paperback explosion, and the best-seller explosion, and
whatnot. The total voliame of books expanded, and there
were a great many more new publishers. So there was more
demand for space at our convention. And as the demand for
space became greater and the publishers, for a while there,
became more affluent, we raised our dues. And the organiza-
tion began to build up a reserve. By the time I retired as
president, we had quite a bit of money — well over $150,000
in assets, in actual cash assets. So they started doing
But speaking of my work on the American Booksellers
Association: it was arduous at times. Certain problems
would come up with publishers, and certain things, as a
trade organization, you're not allowed to do, as I men-
tioned to you before. And we were just stymied how to
act. We had to act as individuals, but if we could spread
the word. ... So many individuals started protesting on
their own that we solved a lot of problems in a quiet way.
One of the nicest things we did was [that we] created the
publisher-bookseller relations committee. We created the
committee about the third or fourth year I was on the board.
And it's amazing how many problems we solved by sitting down
on opposite sides of a table — either have a lunch first or
dinner afterward — and one to one, friendly basis. Nobody
blew their stacks, like you do get up at a panel meeting
sometimes. You create an antagonistic feeling. Although
there is an antagonism — buyer and seller — always; one
always wants to get the best possible deal, one side or
the other. Nevertheless, it should not be an antagonism
that is total, especially in the book business, because
you can only buy Macmillan books from Macmillan, and you
can only buy Random House books from Random House, and they
can only sell them to booksellers. And if we take their
books and don't push them--hide them in a corner — they
know they're not going to sell any books. So they have
to keep up a reputation. So there's a mutual necessity
for creating a working relationship. And it, to my mind,
is such a stupid thing. The problems, one by one, are not
major. All together they become major. Well, occasionally
there are major problems. Some new publisher appoints a
person who has never been in the book business, doesn't
understand the book business, and he lays down a set of
rules which are totally unfit for the book business. May-
be he came out of the grocery trade or a large manufacturing
establishment. One person came out of Singer Sewing Machine,
Well, it's a great big company. They manufacture computers
and everything. Incidentally, we just recently got a per-
son from Singer Sewing Machine who's now the head of the
book division of Dayton-Hudson, a chap by the name of
GARDNER: Is that so?
EPSTEIN: So there's an idea what poor Elliot Leonard has
to get along with. I'm glad I'm not there. So we formed
this cominittee, and it became one of the most important
committees, talking out problems with publishers. Also
when I used to go to the conventions--I say "used to";
I've only missed one so far--I used to get a lot of
difficulties settled in the aisles, talking to the pub-
EPSTEIN: Lobbying. I'd get them aside and talk to them
and say, "Look. Listen to me for a minute." And I
would draw them a diagram. "You don't want to give
me this. This other publisher gives me this, so I do
a better job for him. This company gave me advertising
allowances, so what happened? We found out that every
bookstore in the community benefits by an ad run under
my name. The only advantage I get out of the ad is that
people who haven't got a regular bookstore who might want
to mail in an order will send it to me because my name is
on it. But for that, I do all the work for you with the
newspaper. You don't have a thing to do with it. You
just give me the copy, give me the money, and we will set
it up for you. " And we had to convince them. It took us
years to do that. And things of that nature, or shipping
charges, we would try to make a standard. And that is the purpose
of an organization: to control their own members; to teach
their own members; and to create a certain amount of public
relations for the trade as a whole, for books; and to
support things pertaining to books, like Book V7eek,
National Book Week for libraries--support libraries,
support the National Book Award and certain things of
that nature; to fight for favorable postage rates and
freight rates wherever we can (we have a representative
in Washington); copyright — well, we're not that much con-
cerned with copyright, except there are areas in which
the retail bookseller is concerned with copyright. So
this was the purpose of the organization, and I learned
all those things, gradually. I think I sat on the board
for nine years, president for two years, and chairman of
the board for two years. So I had that relation over a
period of thirteen years. And that thirteen years, I
think the book business made its greatest strides in dollar
volume. I certainly don't take credit for that.
GARDNER: Just coincidental.
EPSTEIN: The change in the book business. . . . And there
were a lot of problems that came up because of it, especially
with the new publishers. We had to keep our director — give
him directives from the board. It's an important job, sit-
ting on the board of the American Booksellers Association.
It's important because it represents such a great number of
booksellers, and booksellers are definite assets to the
cultural well-being of this country. We tried to educate
them to be better booksellers, to be better businessmen.
We created a lot of programs that were excellent.
Now Joe Duffy has died. He's the guy I worked with.
We became very close friends. I showed you a picture of
him sitting by the pool, I think. Now they have a new
executive director [Roysce Smith], and they're doing
very well. And incidentally, Elliot Leonard just com-
pleted a two-year term [as president] ; he just left office
at the last convention--so that Pickwick has had two presi-
dents in a relatively short period of time.
GARDNER: V-Jhich I'm sure is unique among Southern California
EPSTEIN: Well, it is unique that there were two so close to-
gether from Southern California. And perhaps I shouldn't
say it, but the eastern booksellers don't — well, they're
less provincial now than they were. But the New England-
New York bunch--it was really tough on a westerner. And
I was surprised when I was picked for president. You know,
you don't politick for it, and I was very pleased, and very
proud, and very gratified.
GARDNER: What is the political process by which the president
EPSTEIN: The president appoints a nominating committee — on
which he does not sit — of three people. And they appoint a
man to be president.
GARDNER: Is it usually taken from the board?
EPSTEIN: Oh, yes. I mean, there's no reason why it shouldn't
be, because they're the experienced people. For instance,
I sat on the board for nine years, which is the maximiim
you can sit on the board unless you become an officer or
president. It's only fair and logical, because to get a
man green from the outside--number one, he's got to learn
the ropes. It took me maybe two years. Sitting on my
first two years on the board, I had to be quiet because
I didn't know the background of all the things that led
up to what they were talking about. So it takes at least
two, three meetings--unless you're very forward--before
you step out and say something, unless it happens to be
in an area in which you're very professional. We've had
our problems on the board. People became unhappy and
criticized the ABA for certain things--the way we run
GARDNER: What are the criticisms?
EPSTEIN: Well, especially newcomers, people who don't
understand the purpose of the organization and don't under-
stand the value of the organization, they will join the
American Booksellers Association and come to a convention
thinking that overnight they'll become book people, that
the whole convention will be tied to their desire to learn
the basics of bookselling. Well, that's not what the con-
vention is for. One woman in particular wrote a very, very
nasty letter to the Publisher' s Weekly. She was from Long
Beach, incidentally. I was president. And I didn't hear
about the letter till just before it was published. The
Publisher' s Weekly sent a copy to Joe Duffy to get somebody
to make a reply. The letter said that she had been in the
book business now for a period of about five months, and
she'd read about the convention, that the convention was
going to give her all kinds of classes in how to sell books,
Well, she went to the convention. She said nobody paid
any attention to her. She was invited to a first-timers'/
and she was told that she can stop any director at any
time. We announce that: go and ask questions of the
publishers who are exhibiting. At any rate, she went
on and on in a tirade that the whole thing was run for
the publishers: the publishers get the best seats at
the dinners, the publishers will only talk to the top-
notch booksellers or the largest booksellers, and nobody
would talk to her, and the publishers threw parties for
everybody, the pxiblishers even hired girls to be hostesses
at the parties. Which in itself is okay. Here's a pub-
lisher having a big party; he's got to have somebody. But
she insinuated they were there for a purpose.
GARDNER: Did they invite her to the parties?
EPSTEIN: Everyone was invited. Everyone registered gets
an invitation. The publisher will give them. And even if
you're not invited, you see a party going on at those con-
ventions, you walk in. Lord knows how many gate-crashers
come to the hotel to get good and drunk at those places.
Nobody asks any questions. You just walk in, say "Hi,"
and grab a drink, and that's all. So you invent some-
thing. If a guy's a gate-crasher, he knows how to get
At any rate, this woman — it was the most horrible,
unjust letter. And so I sat down and wrote a letter back
for the ABA. I said, "Look, I've been going to conventions
for all these many, many years, since before I was a member
of the board. I don't get treated any differently than I
was the first time. I used to come in; I'd walk down the
aisles. I would learn by asking a question or two and
talking to other booksellers. If I needed any help, there's
100 people I could go to and ask for help. Stop anybody."
And I said, "In my case, I feel that I've gotten a great
deal out of every convention. It's certainly broadened
my outlook. I talked to booksellers who were doing this,
that, and the other. We'd get up when they'd have panel
discussions for two days." I said, "I just don't under-
stand this. And as far as getting along with publishers,
accusing the publishers of treating big booksellers better
than the small ones," I said, "look, I've been through it
all the way up." And I said, "I didn't notice where the
publisher treated me any differently when my volume went
over a million than they did when my voliome was 100,000 or
And they get criticism like that, all unnecessary
criticism. But apparently, that's the end of the glass
that some people look through, the wrong end of the tele-
scope. They expect too much. Well, this woman apparently
expected to become a full-fledged bookseller in three
nights. But she came to a sad end. This is really sad.
She died, I think of cancer. I was going to go up to see
her, but she went out of business. I met her only once.
I met her one time after that. I never met her before
that. It was at a place where I couldn't get away to
talk to her. It was at an affair. I would have liked
to talk to her. But she dropped out of the business any-
way. Her whole attitude was wrong. I don't think she'd
have succeeded in any business.
Well, that's the American Booksellers Association.
It's a good organization. Right now it's embarked on a
program of teaching professional bookselling — which we
wanted to do for many years, but we didn't have the staff
nor the money. Before Joe Duffy died, they made a deal
with the Association of College Bookstores. They had a
program going, so they combined the two programs, and this
was very successful. They've been spending a lot of money
on it. As a matter of fact, I think last year the ABA came
up with almost zero profit because they spent so much money
on the school and other programs. As I told them, they'd
better not go back to operating off the fat we helped build
up. It's dangerous. True, I mean that. But I think it's
in good hands now.
TAPE NUMBER: XIII, SIDE ONE
AUGUST 13, 1974
GARDNER: You were about to tell me about the chap who
is president now of ABA.
EPSTEIN: Yeah. Dick Noyes of Colorado Springs, another
Western man. I remember when he came on the board--very
intelligent, a relatively younger man. He's forty-two
or three. And he and his wife run a very nice store in
Colorado Springs. We visited them just a couple of weeks
ago. We were in Denver. We had been in Denver before,
and he heard about it, and he pushed me into the ground
because I didn't go the extra hundred miles to visit him.
I promised him next time I was in Denver I would visit
him, so we did. And we had a very nice time with him.
It's an excellent store for a small community. And he
runs it very well, carries a very good stock, and [he's]
very businesslike. And financially he's doing extremely
well. He mentioned the kind of lease he had, and it's
out of this world. Rents now for most booksellers are
extremely high--well, like all rents, I suppose. But he
has a very beautiful lease, which he's had for some time,
and which goes on for some time. But we had a nice visit
with him. He's aggressive enough to say what he has to
say and recognize truth from fiction. He'll make a
GARDNER: I know how attached you always were to Pickwick.
So what were some of the things that you did during your
term as president of ABA that took you away from Pickwick?
EPSTEIN: What other things? Well, the organization has
a program to follow. They have problems come up, member-
ship problems, finances. Problems come up with the pub-
lishers— how much to spend for this, that, or the other,
how much to spend, for instance, to start the school.
GARDNER: Did you do much traveling around the country,
things like that? What were some of the things, during
your two years?
EPSTEIN: For me, getting away from Pickwick was always
inconvenient. But by the same token, I always did what
I had to do. We went to board meetings twice a year. I
never liked New York, and I still don't, so if we had a
board meeting on Friday, I would leave Thursday, get there
Thursday evening, spend the night; and immediately after
the board meeting on Friday, by six o'clock, I was on the
plane on the way home. And then when I was on the Execu-
tive Committee, then I would have to come in for an extra
day because we would meet a day before the board. So I
would have to spend two days. But that's the most time
I would spend in New York. Occasionally there would be
something else that would keep me in New York an extra
day. But then they had regional meetings, two a year, in
one part of the country or another; and we adopted a system
where the president of the organization would go to that
meeting with the director. Originally, the first regional
meetings we had, only the director would come out with a
secretary to help run the thing. Later on, they decided,
on my suggestion, that it would be very nice if the presi-
dent would appear at those meetings. And I was not presi-
dent at the time, but I thought it would be good for the
organization, for the people who don't come to the conven-
tions, to meet the president. We'd get a little extra
publicity out of it, and I thought the organization would
become more cohesive--which turned out exactly right. So
we had the regional meetings, and I had to go to those. I
used to take Ann to most of those. Those used to take two
or three days.
Then there's correspondence back and forth, and tele-
phoning back and forth, with the problems that occur, mem-
bership problems and such. It took a great deal of time.
But, look, it's something you want to do, and you do it,
and I certainly don't regret it. I enjoyed it. All the
things in life you do interfere with something else you
might do. Some you like to do better, you do better than
others. I enjoyed the work in ABA, enjoyed it very much.
And I think it did a great deal for me because I was not
much of a traveler. I never got around too much. It
helped broaden my outlook tremendously--! mean, when I
talked with booksellers. Some of them had businesses
that had been established for fifty to a hundred years.
And I always thought they were almost superhuman. And
I discovered that in some respects they were not as good
booksellers as I, so it gave me a great deal more confi-
dence, built me up and encouraged me to do bigger things
which I might have been fearful of doing. With confidence
comes the will to do, as a rule--to expand. As long as we
had only one store, we expanded our business within that
store by doing things we might have been afraid to do had
I not seen the world more — if you follow what I mean. So
the ABA did a great deal for me, and I think I did a little
bit for it.
GARDNER: Bob Campbell was president of ABA after the late
EPSTEIN: Bob Campbell was president, but, oh, at least
twenty years before I.
GARDNER: How come he was participating in it then, and you
even really a part?
EPSTEIN: Well, Bob always has been a joiner. And I wouldn't
say that he participated in that as a joiner, but it was a
different kind of an organization then. It was almost a
closed club. I'm not knocking Bob, but that's the way the
organization was. Their goals were nowhere near the goals
that we had during the time I served on the board. And
even now the goals are totally different. And the book
business was different in those days. I pointed out a
picture to you there where there were three past presidents,
including Bob Campbell, and that was my first attendance at
a convention. And sure enough, fifteen or so years later,
I became a past president. So now that whole picture is
four past presidents.
GARDNER: What other Southern California people have been
presidents? Are you, Elliot Leonard, and Bob Campbell the
EPSTEIN: Well, there's a chap here who was president, I
think, even before Bob Campbell, when he was in business
in New York. But he was not anybody I would consider a
GARDNER: He was not a Southern California bookseller.
EPSTEIN: But for the record, he lives out here now; he
was a salesman out here after he left New York. He left
the retail business and went to work for a publisher. Karl
Placht. German — very nice person. He was sent out here by
Brentano's to run the Brentano stores. When they tried to
break in here many years ago — which is a totally different
Brentano's than it is now. That's all I can recall.
GARDNER: So you're the only ones. Well, I think that covers
EPSTEIN: Well, I think so. One can go on and talk about it
endlessly. It's an important organization for the book trade.
The membership has grown tremendously. Their services to mem-
bers and some of their publications are very helpful. They
publish a handbook which saves a tremendous amount of time
for book dealers, an informational handbook. And then they
have access to other information if they need it, from the
home office. They provided all these extra services. Then
they have something which is called Single Copy Order Plan--
SCOP--which was devised during the time I was on the board.
I helped plan it, and I'm certainly not alone in it. It
was a mutual effort. It allows a bookseller to order one
copy of a book at a much better discount than he ever had
before. But this is what he has to do: he has to send a
check with the order, and the order is shipped directly to
the customer. So just one transaction: no bookkeeping
for the publisher, no bookkeeping for the bookseller. So
that made a very unprofitable transaction a little bit more
profitable. And it's to the great benefit of the smaller
bookstores, because the larger booksellers, the real large
stores, can't use it. They can if they set up a special
system, and some of them have, where they have a special
check drawn. You have to have a special checking account,
a special type of check drawn. Large corporations don't
like that. They don't like somebody in some department,
or in some branch, signing checks. So they don't use that.
It's a boon to the smaller bookseller. Also to the pub-
lisher: they can give a better service to the bookseller,
and they're no money out. They got their money right with
the order. A number of other things, they've developed.
GARDNER: V7ell, I'd like to get back to Pickwick for a
EPSTEIN: That again?
GARDNER: Well, we covered, really, up until the early
fifties. I don't think we discussed the part from 1952
or '53, say, up until the time of your retirement. The
first thing, to get into it gently: I wanted to ask you
about those newspaper articles that you did for the Daily
News, the "Mr. Pickwick" column. How did you get into that?
EPSTEIN: Oh, that. Scott O'Dell was the literary editor
of the Daily News at the time. And we used to meet at
cocktail parties, or book affairs of one kind or another,
and we talked. We always discussed the book business.
One evening, we were standing somewhere over a drink--or
sitting, whatever — and he said, "I want you to do a column
for me." It was a total shock to me. I said, "Look, I'm
a bookseller. I'm not a writer." I said, "I'm not a liter-
ary person at all." "Well," he said, "Write the way you
talk." "Oh," I said, "come on, Scott," I said, "I just
don't know how to write. And besides, where will I find
the time?" He said, "Well, you'll find the time." He said,
"You just write about books, and book people, whatever." And
you know, he just kept after me. He called me up on the
telephone: "What about it, Louis? When are you going to
give me a column?" So finally I said, "Well, you really
are challenging me, because I've never written anything.
I'm not sure that I know English grammar well enough to
write a proper paragraph." "Well, we'll take care of
that." So finally, we made this deal. I would never
review books--that was not my forte. I would talk about
the book business. But he had to promise me that if the
column stank, he wouldn't publish it; and number two, he
would see to it my grammar was at least half-decent. He
And you know, we started writing that column, and it
just kept going. And I learned something. I learned that
term "deadline." And I've learned from that. I'd heard
before and I've heard since from people who write the news-
papers or anything with deadline--magazines or whatever —
that you never do anything until the last deadline. I had
to mail my column on a Monday so it would get there by
Wednesday. He had to have it by VJednesday. And I would
never sit down to write the column till midnight Sunday,
[laughter] I may have had a few notes scribbled out, and
many times Ann would come to me and say, "Why don't you
go to bed?" And there I'd be poking out that column. I
wouldn't go to bed until two, three, four o'clock. I'm
not a very good typist, and I'm a slow thinker, and so
it used to take me about two, three, four hours. Some-
times I'd have a very nice subject, and I ' d go through it.
It was really interesting work (except that it was
work for me--writing is not easy for me) because I had a
chance to mention things that the average person doesn't
read about — authors coming through, or what other book-
sellers were doing. I made it a point to talk about other
booksellers and their business. It wasn't a hogging column
for the Pickwick at all. Occasionally I would get a fan
letter, which was wine for me.
And then really I became tired. So I begged off, and
he said, "Well, do it every other week, and I'll get Leslie
Hood of Vroman ' s to do it one week." And we went along that
way for a while. And the paper sort of petered out, too.
But it was fun. It was something I had never anticipated
GARDNER: We've mentioned briefly your son Aaron's partici-
pation at Pickwick, but I'd like to talk about it in more
detail because I think it's really important.
EPSTEIN: Well, Aaron had the hardest job of anybody in the
business — he had to work for his father.
GARDNER: How did he come to it in the first place?
EPSTEIN: Well, he graduated UCLA business administration
course. He went to work for Sears Roebuck. He was there
about six months. And he learned a great deal about mer-
chandising there. Aaron gets enthusiastic about something
he likes, and he liked it there. So there was this business
of the Pickwick growing, and he starting out on a career.
Which way to turn? Well, I always told my boys, both
Eugene and Aaron, that I would love to have them in the
business, but never to go into business just to please
me. If they had other things to do, go ahead and do
them, as long as they did a good job.
Well, then he finally decided to come into business.
We taught him, little by little. In those days, we had
old books. We started him in with that, and then he went
into the new-book business in various departments of the
store, and then to advertising. He sold books on the floor.
He worked hard; he worked just as hard as any of the rest
of them. He didn't want to work any less hard than the
rest. And he learned the business, but he fell into the
groove. His job became promotion; he liked that. And he
did an excellent job of promotion. Buying was done by
myself, and then he started to participate in the execu-
tive area. I ran the whole thing. I was the buyer; I ran
the floor, with the help of Stackhouse and a couple of others
But I was mixed into everything. I had to hire the book-
keeper, and I had to do the executive work, and we got to-
gether for planning sessions. And gradually I tried to
trim off a lot of that. And I did, to Aaron — well, some
of it to Stackhouse, but Stackhouse was involved in re-
mainders. He worked in planning and other areas, but his
main interest was remainders. At one time, when we had
old books, he was in charge of that.
Aaron fell into the open area of promotion. And he
did an excellent job of that. That continued more and
more as the business grew, as we opened branches. He
had more and more to promote. And he set up the advertis-
ing department. He hired Nick Clemente, who's still there.
(They wanted Nick to go back to Minneapolis, but he said
he didn't want to live in Minneapolis. He said he came
out from New York to live in California. He said he
wouldn't go. So they made a special dispensation for
him. And one of these days he may lose his job because
he won't go to Minneapolis. They may decide, "Well, heck,
if you won't come here, then we don't need you." But at
any rate, at least for the present. . . .) Aaron hired
him; Aaron set up the basics of it. All the Pickwick ads
you see around here emanate from Aaron's policy--he was
the one, together with me, of course--of putting the pres-
sure on the publisher to try the experiment: "Just give
us one ad--let's try it and see what happens--on a co-op
basis." They were very, very reluctant to come out here with
co-op money. They would spend it in New York on the New
York Times . Well, New York Times goes all over, and it's
nowhere solidly. And he was the one who kept writing
letters, and I kept putting pressure on the salesmen to
tell their sales managers. And little by little we got
one, then we got two, then we got another one, then we got
to the point where they'd want an ad--they'd call us: would
we please run an ad? Mostly that was Aaron's work.
So he participated greatly in that. He participated
in many other things--! mean, payrolls, and planning of
money, and this, that, and the other, what to do with money.
He actively participated. Well, we sat down and we talked
these things out. But that was his strong forte. And I
kept on buying. And this went on along, and we started
expanding. I mentioned how we managed the first branch?
GARDNER : No .
EPSTEIN: I thought I told you that.
GARDNER: I don't think so.
EPSTEIN: Well, that is an interesting story. I don't know
if it has any historical value. We got a phone call from
Mr. [Robert E.] Getz of the May Company. Bob Getz is the son of
the Getz who had the Union Bank. He's the grandson of
Kaspare Cohn. Did we mention Kaspare Cohn before?
GARDNER: Well, we talked about this off the tape.
EPSTEIN: Well, to digress. People always interest me,
sometimes in an area which is far different than the pro-
fession. Bob Getz, number one, we formed a very nice friend-
ship. Occasionally I call him up and either have him buy me
a lunch or I'll buy him a lunch. Neither of us are too poor
to buy a lunch for ourselves, but it's a starting point.
"You owe me a lunch." So at any rate, people interest me,
and the Jewish community interests me. Well, Kaspare Cohn —
you will find in any book of the history of Los Angeles —
was an early pioneer here. He had a retail store, supplies
and retail goods which he sold to ranchers and others who
would come in. And his particular group of followers were
the sheepmen, sheepherders . And, you know, the sheepherders
go away for six months at a time. So they would, number one,
buy their stores from him, their supplies, whatever; and
they would leave their money with him while they were away.
And then they'd draw on it. If they needed something, they
might send somebody after it with a note. They'd draw on
it. And so in effect he became their banker. And from that
grew a bank. And from that bank grew the Union Bank. And
he became a wealthy man. And I don't want to forget, also,
that from that man grew the Kaspare Cohn Hospital, which
was on Whittier Boulevard, east of Indiana Street. I think
it's still there, but being used for something else. And
from the Kaspare Cohn Hospital grew the Cedars of Lebanon
Hospital. And the Cedars of Lebanon are now the Cedar-Sinai
organization. So you see the direct chain of philanthropy
from Kaspare Cohn, By no means was he the only philanthropic
person in Los Angeles, but he was one of the Jewish philan-
thropists who became philanthropists after they made money--
with the Hellmans, and the Newmarks , and the Lazards. That
whole early Jewish community here was mixed so well with
the regular community, with the general community.
Well, Bob, to get back. . . . How this relates to Pick-
wick, whoever listens will often wonder. You'll have to
call me "the Rambler," the way I ramble all over the place,
from Jewish history to the May Company and Pickwick Bookshop
branches. At any rate, Bob Getz is the grandson of Kaspare Cohn.
GARDNER: No longer Jewish, I assiame.
EPSTEIN: Yes and no. Certainly not active, but with his
background, how can he escape? His mother was married to
Ben Getz and she had been a Cohn. He was with the Union
Bank. But when they brought in the new management at
the Union Bank a few years ago, he took exception to some-
thing or another--which is not unusual, you know. So he
left the bank, and he got a job at the May Company as the
vice-president for real estate — May Company of Southern Cali-
fornia. Yeah. I think it's only Southern California. Now
he's semi-retired. Although he was Southern California, he
traveled all over the country for them.
We got a call one day. This was when? Just about '64.
Would I be interested in opening a store in a shopping
center? So I said, no, no. So he said to me, "Well, you
answered that so casually, I'm not sure you know what I'm
talking about." "Well," I said, "You asked me if I wanted
to open a store in a shopping center." He said, "Yes." "And
I said, no." And he said, "I don't usually get such a casual
and definitive answer." He told me who he was. I had no
ideas of expanding and opening another store. Oh, occasionally
we talked about it, but we were so busy. We were working
so hard with what we had. Aaron was up to his neck, and
I was. He said, "Well, maybe you don't know what's hap-
pening in the retail trade." And I said, "That's prob-
ably correct. I have my nose to the grindstone here. I
know what's happening in the book business." So he said,
"Well, I've never run across a guy like you. If I could
explain to you, I'm sure you would be interested. I'll
call you again. You might be more receptive." And sure
enough, a week later, he called me again; and he said,
"You know, I've been thinking about you." He had a very
friendly voice, pleasant. He said, "I've been thinking
about you, and you worry me." He said, "I know your busi-
ness. There's a specific reason I'm calling you, because
you run a good business. But I've never seen a business-
man that didn't want to get ahead, improve his business and
create more business." "Well," I said, "that may be; but
the book business is a very jealous business, and it takes
all my time. And to expand it. ..." "Well," he said,
"look. I'm a customer of yours. Will you do me the favor
of coming down to ray office? I can't bring what I want to
show you with me. And let me explain what we're doing, what's
happening in the retail-book business as regards shopping
centers. And then you might be interested." I told him
my son and I were working very hard. He said, "Bring your
son with you and anybody else you want to," So I said,
"Well, if you put it on that basis--a customer asks me a
favor, a courtesy--! certainly will come."
So we showed up at his office, and he shows us this whole
plan of this great big shopping center out here in the Valley,
the first one in the Valley. And explains all these things,
and he says how many hundreds of dollars worth a square foot
of business can be done in these stores, what's happening in
shopping centers in other parts of the country, how this is
the coming way of doing business. He still wasn't making too
much of an impression on us because there was no real desire
on our part to expand. Money wasn't the principal thing, at
the moment, that we were thinking about; it was how much more
work it was going to be. That was worrying us. Well, he went
on and told us, explained to us all these things. We still
weren't too impressed.
About a week later, he called us--could he come over
and bring us a small set of plans? By that time, we rec-
ognized him as a nice person and a genuine person who had
a real desire to have us in there. He gradually broke
down our idea of not expanding. He turned us over to
"maybe we'll expand, if the thing is right." And then it
was his job to sell us the idea of taking a store,
with the hopes of making x number of additional dollars.
And he went on and told us that we could do half a million
dollars worth of business at least, or at least $350,000
worth of business the first year.
GARDNER: Was this Topanga?
EPSTEIN: Topanga Plaza, yeah. I said, "Okay, I'll listen.
How do we do that?" "Well," he said, "Fine. You know how
to run a bookstore. I don't have to tell you how." "That
part is right. But what's the mechanics of it? What do
we pay you? How much money do we have to put in for fix-
tures and things like that?" "Okay, fine." "T^d then,
where in the thing is this thing going to be?" Well, he
got us that far, and he was telling us that we would do
$300,000 worth of business--we would do $100 a square
foot. $350-, $400-, $500,000. Actually there was no
limit. He says, "Look, I'll take you to shopping centers
where the stores are doing fantastic." And this is true.
I'd begun to hear about these things. I'd never been in
a shopping center.
So we sit down with a plan, and he picks out a 20- X
100-foot store. He said, "I want you to take this store."
I said, "That's only 20 X 100. Bob, that's only 2,000
square feet. If I do $100 a square foot, which is very
high for books, I'll do $200,000." I said, "I don't need
a $200,000 business. It would take too much of our time.
And if I make 10 percent, that's $20,000, and I'll have to
give the government $10,000. So for $10,000 I don't want
to be bothered."
So he sort of looked at me. He could recognize my
arguments. "Well," he said, "what do you want?" He was
sort of exasperated. So I pointed at that store at the
corner. I said, "I want 40 feet right at this corner."
He said, "You can't have it." I said, "Why?" He said,
"You can't have it." He said, "I can't give you that
space. The place is spoken for by other people." I
said, "It doesn't show on the map that anybody's rented
it yet." He said, "You don't understand. I just can't
give it to you." I said, "Okay, Bob, thanks very much.
I don't need a little bit of business. I struggled all
my life to make a little bit of money, and I finally made
it, and I'm above that now. I don't want to go back to
that." So he said, "You're the most impossible man." I
said, "Bob, look. I want a place where I can do a lot
of business. That's exactly what you told me. That's
why I'm here. But I can't take a small store. I wouldn't
know how to run a small store." [tape stopped]
So we fought back and forth. We left that day, and he
was angry with me. I wasn't overly happy about it either,
because I didn't want a small store. A small store would
be difficult for us to run. We called back, or — I forget —
Andy, Aaron, called him or I called him. So he called back
and he said, "Well, maybe we'll have to get together. Come
on down to the office." So I went down there. He said,
"What the hell's so magic about that 40 feet right on that
corner?" I said, "Nothing magic. I'll take 42 feet.
I'll take 38 feet. But the magic 40 — I had to give some
area. But I don't want a small store. I don't want a
2, 000-square-foot store. I want a 5 , 000-square-foot
store." (It was 40 X 120.)
So we fought back and forth, and he finally gave it
to me. We got an excellent lease; we got excellent terms.
We finally opened the store, and it took off like a rocket.
In the first year we did over $500 , 000--f irst full twelve
months. Over $600,000. The store was doing well over a
million, until they opened another shopping center in
Northridge. That sort of cut the business off that cen-
ter. But now it's building back again.
GARDNER: Another Pickwick in Northridge?
EPSTEIN: Well, there is another Pickwick there now, but
there wasn't when they first opened.
GARDNER: Oh, it just pulled from the shopping center.
EPSTEIN: Yeah. Shopping centers steal business from each
other. But now Topanga ' s building back. I think they're
back to over a million dollars at one store--4,800 square
feet. A very interesting story comes as an aftermath. Of
course, he was very pleased, and I was very pleased. And
then we were sold, of course, on shopping centers. I had
occasion to speak to him about some mechanical thing —
which was not in his department, but the department which
was supposed to take care of it wasn't taking care of it.
And I couldn't get any action, so I called him. I ex-
plained to him what it was. He said, "I'll take care of
it for you." And I said, "Are you opening any more shop-
ping centers?" So he said, "You see, now you're wanting
to go into shopping centers." "Well," I said, "Why not?
We found out it's a good business. We thank you for
breaking our head to try to get us in there." So he said,
"Well, there are all kinds of shopping centers. You can
get very hurt." He said, "Maybe we ought to have lunch
together." I said, "Okay, come down, we'll go to Musso's
for lunch." So during the lunch we talked about a lot of
things. And he said to me, "You know, you had me over a
barrel." I said, "Is that so?" He said, "Louis Epstein
had the May Company and Warner Brothers" — you know that
shopping center is owned by the two of them. May Com-
pany and Warner Brothers. I said, "Louis Epstein had
the May Company and Warner Brothers over a barrel?
I'd like to hear about this." He said, "Yes." He said,
"I was determined to have a bookstore in that center. I felt
a bookstore was for the good of the mix of the tenants. But,"
he said, "there's only one bookstore that I would have." He
said, "You have no idea how many bookstores I've turned down.
I've turned down a chain from Minneapolis" — which was Dayton,
Dalton — "and local dealers." He said, "I've turned down
twelve or more booksellers that wanted to come in. But
there's only one that I wanted. And that was your store,
because I knew your merchandise, I know your store, I've
been a customer there for years." He said, "For that loca-
tion, all the other people on the committee who were work-
ing on the center to help rent it — we never give a loca-
tion like that to a local dealer. We give it to some chain
that follows us all over the country." May Company has a
lot of shopping centers all over the country." He said,
"I took a beating — you have no idea — by putting you in
there." I said, "Is anybody unhappy about it now?" He
said, "No. Nobody's unhappy. We are not unhappy. But
we have a lot of unhappy people in the chains that said,
'How come you gave that location to a small merchant in-
stead of giving it to us? We follow you all over. Where's
he going to help you?" "Well," I said, "We may go with
you." And since then, we've been into four of their centers,
But that was how the first Pickwick expansion came
about. Of course, Aaron was involved in all the negotia-
tions, and so forth. And then we opened at San Bernardino;
we opened in Bakersfield; we opened Carlsbad; we opened
San Diego. San Diego is another deal that Bob Getz in-
sisted that I take.
GARDNER: Where in San Diego is it?
EPSTEIN: Mission Valley Center. He had a Ford [Automobile]
salesroom in the center, and it doesn't belong in a center.
So he was waiting for them to give up their location. They
negotiated them out of there. He called me up and he said,
"Louis, move right in." And we got to the point that
we didn't even have to talk terms. He knew exactly what
he wanted to charge me, and he knew exactly what I wanted
to pay, and it was a handshake deal. Somebody drew up
the lease, and it always worked out. If anything came
up, there was no fighting, no arguments, no threats of
lawsuits. We dealt with other people that--oh, just
horrible. One man in particular. This man in particular
went as far as to cut off a piece of our signature and
paste it onto somewhere else. If that's not dirty. . . .
And we caught him at it, fortunately. He did that to
impress an insurance company that I, personally, was in-
suring the leases, which was not so. We're incorporated.
So this expansion went on, and the book business
generally kept expanding. In spite of the fact that we
opened several stores around us in the Valley, we thought
we would lose a lot of business by opening in the Valley.
I thought we'd lose at least 10, 15 percent of our busi-
ness. Stackhouse thought so; Aaron thought so. We gained
so many customers there, and some of our customers would
buy books in both places. But our volume kept growing
even in Hollywood, kept right on growing — not quite as
fast, but then it started perking up again. And then
the Valley just kept growing and growing and growing.
GARDNER: What was your competition in the Valley at
that time? There really weren't any major bookstores,
EPSTEIN: No, there were no major bookstores, but there
were several small ones. I don't even remember now who
they were. There was Lewis, but Lewis wasn't competition.
Lewis is still operating, but he had a different type of
business entirely. He sells teacher's books and teaching
aids and things of that nature. But there were several
little bookstores. They survived. And since then a number
of others have opened up and are doing fairly well. A
personal bookshop can compete with a large chain anytime —
if they're properly financed to begin with. Where the
personal small bookshops opening break down is in under-
financing. They invest in their original stock, and they
have to wait so much time to get some of it back that they
have a hard time keeping up with it. And they have to build
up their inventory, especially on a rising market of prices.
So from there on, we just kept branching out till
Dayton-Hudson came in and asked to buy us out.
GARDNER: How many stores did you have at the time that
Dayton-Hudson first approached you?
EPSTEIN: We had seven operating and three on the boards.
GARDNER: Were they the first chain to contact you about
GARDNER: And at that point, there was not yet the trend,
EPSTEIN: Not quite, no. No. There were several people
that had two or three or four stores. Lew Lengfeld had
a number of stores out here. He has Hunter's, you know.
And the Hoyt people — Walden — they had a few stores. They
had quite a number of stores scattered aro\and, but they
hadn't come into this market yet. You know, the Walden
is now owned by Broadway.
GARDNER: Weren't they originally in Arizona, or something
EPSTEIN: No, originally they were from New England, and
then they hit a lot of college towns in the East. They
were branching out, but their business started in a dif-
ferent way. They had a lot of department-store concessions.
They had, oh, I don't know, 100 or more of those — 150. But
they're usually very small. Then they started opening up
stores. And then, I guess, the Broadway, seeing what
happened to us, decided they better get into that busi-
ness. So they bought the Walden chain.
GARDNER: Of course, Broadway's gone through tremendous
expansion, too. It's now tied up with Hale.
EPSTEIN: Yes. Now the whole name is changed. The cor-
porate name is Carter-Hawley .
While we were concluding our deal with Dayton-Hudson,
Bob Getz and I were talking about something. "Louis, is
it too late to talk to you about selling your store?" He
said, "It's supposed to be a secret. I happen to know
that you've got a deal going." "Well," I said, "I would
hate to disturb it now." "Well," he said, "I can under-
stand that." But I don't know, maybe I should have dis-
turbed it, because I think I would rather be connected
up with the May Company group than the others. Not that
they haven't treated me fairly, but I think May Company
might have created a different type of chain, much sooner.
Now, they combine the Pickwick stores with the Dalton stores.
It's a separate corporation called Dayton-Hudson Booksellers.
The Pickwick name does not go any further north than Fresno.
All the stores in the West, in my opinion, should have been
Pickwick stores because the name is so well known out West.
But no, they decided they wanted the Dalton name. Now
they're talking of eliminating the Pickwick name altogether.
GARDNER: Is that so?
EPSTEIN: Well, over a period of time, because they want to
do national advertising.*
* The Pickwick name is definitely being phased out. The Mr.
Pickwick logo has been dropped from all use, and all the ads
are now B. Dalton, with Pickwick below. Soon Pickwick will
be in smaller type and a little later not mentioned at all.
All the new stores in this area have their signs as B. Dalton
with a tiny line Pickwick. So save all your old Pickwick
bookmarks. In a hundred years they will be collector's
items. — [L.E. ]
TAPE NUMBER: XIII, SIDE TWO
AUGUST 13, 1974
GARDNER: The next item is the one we just left off on
the other side, and that's the moment that Dayton-Hudson
approached you with interest in buying Pickwick. Was that
the first time that anyone had approached you with some-
thing like that?
EPSTEIN: Yes. That was the first time anybody approached
us to buy. Oh, over the years, every once in a while, I'd
get discouraged, and I'd say, "Well, I'm going to sell out."
One time, Walter Martindale thought of buying us. Another
time a group of actors and writers were going to buy us out.
One of their agents came around to see us, and we progressed
quite a bit toward negotiations. They offered a good round
sum of money for that time — the business, of course, later
became worth much more than that--and we actually started
negotiations. And then they began to nibble away on their
offer, and we dropped that. I mean, there never was any
real necessity for me to sell, but every once in a while I'd
get discouraged about something or other, or tired, or the
whole situation would be overwhelming. But it would always
pass off, and I'd get back to my normal again, so we'd dis-
The period of which I'm talking about now, we already
had seven stores going and three on the drawing board. And
it was getting quite a problem for us. We were expanding
very rapidly. We had not yet used any outside capital, but
we could see in the very near future, if we kept expanding,
we would have to. And I always dreaded that. I always
dreaded having to go to the bank. We never borrowed money
from a bank at any time we were in business. Even when we
expanded our real-estate area, we had enough cash money to
make a down payment. [tape stopped] As I say, we could
see finance problems coming ahead. Not that we couldn't
handle them--we had ample assets on which to borrow, but
borrowing didn't ever appeal to me, as I said. And to be
absolutely honest about the whole matter, I was never cut
out to be a top-notch executive; I am the kind of an oper-
ator who always liked to do things himself, or have his
finger in everything. And I could see problems for myself
and problems in organization that we were not familiar with —
which might turn out to be very difficult to handle. And
then our ambitions were never that very, very great. The
assets of the corporation had grown to a very, very sizable
sum of money, dollars, in value.
Well, just about that time, we had a visitor come from
Dayton-Hudson — their manager of their whole chain [Dick Hagen]
They had the Dalton chain, which they had started a year be-
fore out of Minneapolis, and they had about four or five
stores at the time. And they were trying to get leases in
this area. We knew that they were trying to find leases in
this area, and some of the developers told them, "Well,
what do we need you for? We've got a good operator in
Southern California that does excellent volume, brings
us good rents, pays his bills on time, gives us no prob-
lems. Why should we give you space?" And they were turned
away from a couple of shopping centers with just that type
of talk. So I suppose they did the next best thing they
could do: they came to look to see what it was, probably
with the idea, well, "If you can't beat them, join them"--
that type of philosophy. Which is strictly all right. So
this chap came in one day. He introduced himself, and he
wanted to know if he could look around. I said, "I'd be
happy to have you look around." I mean, any visiting book-
man, I was very proud to show him around — a little bit of
boastfulness in my nature. I showed him around, and [he
was] very, very impressed. He asked if I would tell him
the volume. I said, "We have no secrets. We do x number
of dollars in this store, x number of dollars in that store."
And he went away quite impressed. The following week I
got a thank-you note from him, and the following week I
got a letter that the vice-president of the company, one
of the Dayton brothers [Kenneth], was coming out here. .And
he had been told about the store; he would like to see it.
So I said, "Fine. Send him out. Have him drop in. I ' d be
glad to have him drop in." So I showed him around. He was
very nice, very impressed. He thanked me. A few days later
I got a nice formal thank-you note from him, a very formally
polite and--ccmpany manners, you might say. And by the time
he left--and from the kinds of questions that he asked me,
the kinds of things that he wanted to discuss — I got an
impression that maybe it might be just more than sight-
seeing. The impression was confirmed a week later when
they said that the other brother [Bruce Dayton] , the presi-
dent of the company, would like to come out and see it. So,
obviously, we told him he could, and said we'd be very happy.
So he came out. We showed him around, and he, of course,
asked kind of other questions.
GARDNER: And they still hadn't said anything to you?
EPSTEIN: No, no. But by the time the second brother came
around — the president--! knew that it was more than just
curiosity to see. He knew by that time that I probably
understood that. I showed him around, then we went to
lunch. When we came back from lunch, he said, "Well, Louis,
you must be guessing pretty well what might be in our minds."
1 said, "Yes. I didn't at first, but by the time I was
through talking with Bruce I gathered there might be some
interest other than just viewing." He said, "Well, to be
very honest with you, we've tried to find out as much as
we could about the Pickwick, and we could hear nothing but
the nicest things in the world. We talked to publishers
in New York, and they said you have A-1 credit, you're a
great guy, you're probably the best bookman in the world."
I tell you, he started building me up to the sky. I said,
"Well, it's hard to live up to the reputation you're bring-
ing me." And so he said, "Would you be interested?" "Well,"
I said, "I'm a businessman; I'll listen." So from there
on. ... He said, "Well, we'd like to send some people
out here to compare books and try to find some evaluation."
And then from there on, it progressed by meetings between
their representatives and our accountant, their accountant.
And we got together and thrashed out a deal. And they
GARDNER: What was the deal? Or is that. . . ?
EPSTEIN: Well, I don't think I should mention exactly, but
it was satisfactory to us. The figures were satisfactory.
And what happened afterward, good or bad, is not their
fault. We took a lot of stock and the stock went way down,
as all stocks have. Maybe theirs probably went down a little
more than most, because they started that expansion program.
See, Dayton-Hudson was only in Minneapolis. They were the
main department-store chain in the Minneapolis area. And
even there they had only the main store and, I think, two
branches. And then they bought Hudson's of Detroit, and
that was a great drag. It was at one time one of the finest
stores in the country, one of the biggest — probably the
biggest. And their bigness is now a detriment because they
have this tremendous building in downtown Detroit and downtown
Detroit is probably no better than downtown Los Angeles.
Business no longer goes there--a certain type of busi-
ness. But they've made a turnaround there. But they've
expanded in the outside areas, and they're doing as well
as other department stores are doing.
But because of the tremendous costs they run into,
they used up a lot of money. I don't want to criticize
the top operation of Dayton-Hudson, but I know in the book
area, they were very slow in moving it in the right direc-
tion. Had they left it to, say, Stackhouse, Aaron, Elliot,
or myself, they would have started making the money they're
making now three years sooner, four years sooner. But no,
in spite of the fact that they built me up as the wisest
man in the book business, they never got around to making
their stores like the Pickwick stores till just about two
and a half years ago. Now they have these running ladders,
books from floor to ceiling, major large stocks. The original
plan, the Dalton plan, was to have a minimum of stock. And
I'm not telling any secrets, and I don't tell this in any
derogatory sense except to compare experience with nonexperi-
ence. When they started a chain of bookstores, they hired
no one, not one single person who had ever been connected in
any way with the book business--retail books, wholesale books,
publishing, libraries, nothing. They took a man out of their
lingerie and hosiery department and told him to start a chain
of bookstores. And he spent a year going around Europe
and everywhere. He came back with the idea, sat down with
an architect, and they built almost museum type of things
with a minimum of stock. My first sight of one of those
stores was in Minneapolis at Southdale shopping center,
which they own. And they took me there to show me, when
we first went to Minneapolis. Aaron was with me. I was
taken to the store, and the manager of all the stores
[Dick Hagen] then showed me around--back and forth, base-
ment and everything. They had 7,200 square feet of space.
Now, to a person who doesn't know the book business, or
merchandising, or almost any other type of business--you
don't take 7,200 square feet of space to do a minimum of
business. If you take space, you take it with the idea of
filling it with merchandise, salable merchandise, and doing
the maximum possible of business. So they had this 7,200
square feet of space, and I could see at a glance that the
stock was nowhere near adequate. The shelves were poorly
laid out. The store was totally impossible to run as a
quick merchandising business. They had an $800 desk for
you to sit down and look at your book at with a chair right
towards the middle of the front of the store. And at the
entrance to the store they had a $1,200 globe. Now, how
many $1,200 globes are sold in the United States in a year?
Maybe some large corporation will buy one for their offices,
but just for that one--and in the store right at the entrance,
Instead of leaving all their front with the most possible
glass, they purposely closed off the glass on one-third of
their front--to sell books, which need utmost exposure, they
cut off one-third. As I said before, this man had an idea
of making their stores look like fine drawing rooms. Well,
people who come to shopping centers are not that kind of
buyers. It would be forbidding to Mrs. Jones walking by,
shopping for kids' shoes, to even look into a store like
that. She would never come in; she'd be afraid. Well,
anyway, on the way out of that store, the man said he has
only $65,000 worth of stock in there. That proved what I
had been thinking. And he said, "We hope to reach $300,000
this year." And there he had 7,200 square feet. After we
walked out of that store, he was telling me this, so I said,
you give me that store, and I'll give you $600,000 in one
year." Well, after I said it, I realized that I was em-
barrassing him in front of his boss, so I tried to back
away from that statement. "Well," I said, "There I go
again, boasting," or something like that. Ken Dayton said,
"Wait a minute, Louie. You said that. Do you really think
so?" "Well," I said, "If you're making a direct question of
it, yes, I do." I said, "You'll have to change the pace of
the store. You'll have to put some merchandise in." I
said, "How do you expect to do more than $300,000 if you
have only $65,000 worth of merchandise?" I said, "You're
a merchant. How many turns can you expect out of it?" I
said, 'You're going to find that you're going to get fewer
turns than you expected." They were expecting five and a
half turns a year. You can't do that in the book business.
Maybe in New York, where you've got a fine wholesaler right
in your backyard, but even there you'd have a very difficult
At any rate, we talked about that, and I told him. I
said, "Look. Your shelves are poor." And I told him exactly
what I thought was wrong. And do you know, they didn't do a
damn thing about it until a number of years later when this
chap left and all that. So, as I say, bigness doesn't nec-
essarily even mean creativeness . Maybe in one area they'll
be very creative, and in another area they will take an area
which they're totally unfamiliar, and put in people who are
totally unfamiliar instead of seeking out somebody who is
familiar and have him help set a policy. And I told that
to the Dayton brothers one time. I said, "How in the world
can you lay out x number of million dollars, give it to a
guy--to spend any way he wants--who has never in his life
had a thing to do with a book?"
GARDNER: What was their response?
EPSTEIN: Well, he admitted he made a mistake. But he said,
"Well, to us, it's merchandising." "Well," I said, "even if
it's merchandising, and suppose you realize that after a year's
time, the man is not making progress and you're losing all that
money?" He said, "We're accustomed to losing money when we're
planning an operation." "But there was no necessity for
you to lose money," I said. "You sat there and you told
me what a great bookman I was and how I could help your
organization. And here I was sitting in Los Angeles wait-
ing for the phone to ring. And it never rang." I said,
"There was no reason for you to do that. You had me, you
had Aaron, you had Stackhouse, and you had Elliot Leonard —
all with proven records--and any one of us would have been
very happy to come and sit down and help guide you people.
But you persist in losing a million, $2 million, $3 million
year after year."
But that's the way a corporation works. I mean, to me,
it's an anomaly. They're smart businessmen — the Dayton
brothers are no fools. But this was the smallest portion
of their business, and they probably neglected to even give
the proper thought behind it. But they have vice-presidents
who are supposed to take care of the other portioxis of the
business. But I can't explain it. That's big business for
GARDNER: If it's the smallest portion, why were they so
interested in getting into bookshops in the first place?
EPSTEIN: Well, they hoped to make it a national chain, and
they're progressing toward that. This year, they'll do well
over $100,000,000 of books.
GARDNER: That's a good reason.
EPSTEIN: No, wait a minute. Am I right? No, I think I'm
wrong. I think it's probably closer to $60 or $70 million.
GARDNER: Tell me, did you undergo a great deal of soul-
searching before you sold?
EPSTEIN: Oh, it was one of the hardest things we had to do.
The business was so personal to so many people — to my wife,
to my children, to myself, to my entire family. And to the
community. Really. The Pickwick in Hollywood is the most
personal business you can think of. Of course, we would
tell as few people as possible about it — my attorney, my
accountant. And there was not unanimity of mind. To be
honest with you, I had to force the sale, and I did force
it. And I'm not positive that I made the wise decision.
I'm still not positive. I'm positive in one area--physically .
I was sixty-six years old at the time. I was at nerve's edge,
constantly. I couldn't hold my food many evenings a week,
simply because of nervousness. My doctor kept after me. He
said, "Louis, you're a very fortunate man, that you have a
good heart." He said, "If your heart showed any symptoms of
going astray or becoming irregular, I would have ordered you
to quit years ago. But you can't drive yourself. Your
nervous system will eventually affect your heart. Cut down,
cut down." I have tremors in my hands--which I've had for
a long time, but they were becoming worse. And this oppor-
tunity came along, and I said to myself, I said to my wife,
I said to Aaron, "Look, what are we seeking?" What was
our aim? How much money did we aim to make?" Well, Aaron,
for obvious reasons, was very personally attached to this
business, but he too was becoming nervous--at his age. I
said, "Andy, you're becoming as nervous as I am, at your
age. And it's only one thing that's doing it--the business.
What's the worth of it?" I said, "If I step out of there,
you run it by yourself. You'll have the problems you have
plus all the problems that I carried. Then you will really
have problems. What do we need it for?" I'm the guy really
responsible. I'm positive that if it had come to Aaron —
Aaron definitely did not want to sell. Of course, Eugene
had no special interest in the business other than that he
had a little financial stake in it, so he kept neutral.
And Ann — she tried to keep neutral. She wanted Aaron to
be happy about it; she definitely wanted me out. She knew
that I couldn't carry on the way I was, and she knew also
that if I maintained a five-cent interest in the business,
I would be there every day, because that's the way I am, and
that's the way I am about the book business still. For good
or ill, I am responsible for the decision. I think it was
for the good — if and when the stock market improves, it will
GARDNER: For very good. [laughter]
* 11/75. The stock has come back considerably and will con-
tinue to go up.--[L.E.]
EPSTEIN: But we weren't sophisticated enough in knowing
when to sell. The stock went way up, and now it went way
down. But we manage to eat.
GARDNER: Now how about regrets? Any regrets? And in this
I also include things like seeing what's happened with the
Pickwick since you left.
EPSTEIN: To use the word "regrets" in its full term, I
would have to say no. There are some regrets. In total,
there are no regrets. I am not sorry I sold the business.
I'm sorry that we didn't sell the stock soon enough. But
on the other hand, if we had sold the stock, we'd have prob-
ably taken that money and put it into something else that
would have gone down. So you have to be philosophic about
that, too. As far as regretting what happened to the stores,
yes. I'm sorry to see that they've become so totally im-
personal. I'm sorry to see that they're being run and
bought for from Minneapolis. I'm sorry to see that the
service in the stores has become that slow and that unhappy.
I mean, there are no happy people there. That's a problem.
The people working there are not happy.
GARDNER : Why?
EPSTEIN: Well, because they are not doing creative work.
All the creative work, if you can call it that--the buying,
the policy setting, the merchandise mix--is being done 2,000
miles away in Minneapolis.
GARDNER: By computer.
EPSTEIN: And a lot of it is done by computer. So you have
a lot of people who might be bookmen--if they were given an
opportunity to be creative in the book business--who are
not being helped to become bookmen. As a matter of fact,
they're being hindered to become bookmen. And the oppor-
tunities for them to grow in the bookish area--they can
grow in the management area if they're good, but even the
management of the stores is not bookish.
GARDNER: Do you think this is a trend in the book trade?
EPSTEIN: It definitely is a trend at the present. Now,
what is happening [is] (and this is strictly off the top
of the head--it's my personal philosophy, my personal
thinking, the way I see it; I may be 100 percent wrong)
the trend is definitely for chains. And the trend is
definitely for ordering by computer, because you start a
chain, and you've got twenty-five stores. That's another
area which was beginning to bother us. The detail was be-
coming so great before we sold out. The detail was becoming
so great and so confusing that we could see in the distance —
right now, we need some kind of computer help. And if it's
anything I don't know, it's the computer. And from what I
saw the computer did for some of the publishers during our
time, I didn't want any part of it. So there that was in
the offing, too.
But to get back to your exact question. The trend
definitely is towards that. How long it will continue, I
don't know. There are certain things happening that may
make the business less attractive to the chains that are
operating now. Number one, the rents they have to pay are
becoming fantastically high in shopping centers. One of the
reasons they're becoming fantastically high is because there
are three or four chains competing for the same space. So
the landlord just sits back there waiting for the one who'll
offer him the most money. And it was illustrated to me by
Mr. Getz, whom we spoke about earlier. There was one store in
Eagle Rock. Now Eagle Rock is no great shakes for a shopping
center. It's not a big center. But we wanted to go in there.
And then Walden wanted to go in there, and then another chain
wanted to go in there. We thought we had a deal going, so we
called up there. I said, "Well, how about a deal with you?"
He said, "I don't think you've got a store. I don't think we
can give you a store." I said, "Why not?" He said, "You're
not willing to pay enough money." I said, "We offered you more
than we ever paid you at any other place." "Yes, but," he said,
"we've got two people offering us more." So I said to Bob,
"Look, we can do the best job, selling books." "Oh, he said,
"they can't hold a candle to you." "Well, then, why don't
you give us the store?" He said, "Louie, I work for the
May Company. And the May Company's object is to make money.
And they love to collect high rents. What would you do if
you sat here and you had three people throwing more and
more money at you? Which would you take?" He said,
"That's exactly what we're doing. These people are just
throwing money at us, they want to get in here so bad. We
all know you do a better job. But the insurance company
who loans us the money, they want to get the biggest rent
schedule they can on their books." So we didn't get that.
But the rents are tremendously high. Now, shopping
centers are beginning to compete against themselves. There
are more shopping centers being opened in every area, so
they begin to compete with themselves. The labor situation
is becoming highly competitive. And one other thing which
I see in the offing is a discount schedule for books. The
present discount schedule is very much in favor of large
buyers, and the chains are getting something they're not
entitled to. I know what it is, but I do not want to dis-
cuss it because it's a dangerous subject. It may involve
[Federal] Trade Commission action between the large stores
and the small stores. And I'm afraid that the chain stores
are going to be hit in the way of paying for services that
they're presently getting and not paying for. And the dis-
count relationship may have to be ironed out. And if they
do, it will cost them a lot of money, cost them a lot of
money. When they started opening stores in the hundreds —
like Walden and Dalton, into the hundreds--they began to
exercise a great deal of power over some publishers. And
they're beginning to meet some resistance with the large
publishers. I can see a clash in the relatively near future.
It's got to come, because the publishers can't keep on
giving them what they're giving them. They can't do it
legally, and whether they will want to do it illegally. . . .
And they're pressing. Well, let's face it, you know that
the bigger a customer becomes — the same way in every line —
the more they'll press for better discounts or for more ad-
vertising allowances. So there's a big head-on collision
coming which may cost the chains a large amount of money
in operating expenses.
There is room, however, for a good independent bookstore
in almost any community, which can still give--who will give--
personal service, personal attention, and be willing to exer-
cise some authority over his business. He doesn't have to
wire or call Minneapolis, or whatever the city, to find out
if he can do something out of the usual. There will always
be room for that. I was discussing that with the present
president of the ABA when we visited him two weeks ago at
Colorado Springs, It's one of the things that we talked
about at lunchtime. He asked me whether I thought that
he would have to chain up. I said I thought he would, at
least in his own area, because if he didn't, there would be
several chains coming in and they might surround him and
hurt him. Even in a comparatively small area like Colorado
Springs--shopping centers are springing up all over. "And
they may hurt your business. So if an opportunity does
come up, and you can chain up in your own area without
getting too far afield, it's my opinion you should." With
one or two stores, he can still control it very nicely. It's
when he gets up in the fifteens and twenties, then he has to
have management. And he would have to manage the management
rather than the stores. My big problem was I know the book
business but I don't know management. We got along very
well with the management we had when we had the number of
stores that we had. The trend is definitely, to answer
the question again, toward further chaining up. It will
eventually reach its peak, and it may not be as profitable
as it was with fewer stores.
GARDNER: Is the trend, then, also out of the hands of the
bookmen? You've been sort of hinting at that without really
EPSTEIN: There aren't that many bookmen. You see, the
trouble with the chains is [that] they train managers but
they don't train bookmen. So where are they going to get
the bookmen? You see, right now, Dayton-Hudson, the only
bookmen they have, trained bookmen, are the people they
took out of Pickwick. Their major buyers are Pickwick peo-
ple--all trained at the Pickwick. They took Joni Miller,
Alan Kahn, Brian Baxter; Geof Rogart just left to go there.
I think two other people left; I can't think of their
names at the moment--people whom I had not trained. Joni,
Alan, and Brian were all people that worked under me. They
worked under Elliot; they knew our system; they knew our
system of buying. Alan worked for us since he was fourteen
years old. And he started, oh, handing out those little
bookmarks at the door, that we used to. The purpose was
to watch people as they walked out. And then he worked
weekends, and then he went to college. He worked summers.
And finally, when he was graduating from college, about a
year or so before, we sat down. He asked me, "Do I have a
future in the book business?" So I pointed to Elliot; I
pointed to Stackhouse; I pointed to Aaron. I said, "Well,
these guys made a future in the book business. You can if
you want to. " And I told him what it takes to want to.
You've got to work hard, and you've got to learn as much
as possible about your business, and just take hold of an
area and do a good job. It's that simple. It takes stick-
to-itiveness . He said, "Okay." And by God, he did, and
turned out to be an excellent man. He's a good buyer, good
buyer. He's young; he's loud. But basically, he's a good
guy, in the sense that he's an ethical person. He's a good
person, but he gets overexcited sometimes and makes noise.
Sometimes he uses a few too [many] expletives. But he's
right in the generation of expletives. He's in that exact
generation that uses that foul language. But fortunately
he stayed with something constructive instead of destructive,
The language--he adopted that.
So where are they going to get bookmen? Who is train-
ing them? We're not training any bookmen here now anymore.
They don't need them. All they need is people who manage
the store, hire and fire, see that the cash register totals
up; and all the buying and thinking is done in Minneapolis.
And every other chain has the same problem. That's one of
the things that worries me about the book trade: so many
of the stores, by the nature of their operation, have to
become, instead of major collections of books, smaller
collections of books, of best sellers, which will necessitate
the publisher to try to create best sellers, in this sense:
that they will have to spend a lot more money on promotion
with the chains. The tendency will be to more emphasis on
the sale of best sellers and a diminishing emphasis on the
lesser books, which may be far better literary works--
usually are because the general average, in the United
States (or any country; I'm not downgrading the United
States) is not literature per se but a story, an adventure,
be it fiction or nonfiction. But when you get down to liter-
ature, it has to be for the well-educated person and those
few people who appreciate fine literature. It applies to
fine music as well, or fine merchandise, or fine art. It's
relatively the same. The popular is not necessarily the
best — in art, in music, or anything. So they're dropping
the fine; they're dropping the better because it doesn't
move fast. And the tendency will be to shorten the list
of titles, the same way that, say, Dalton had before the
Pickwick policy went in. Of fifty titles that we handled,
maybe they would have five out of the fifty. Why? Be-
cause they didn't sell too fast. We would handle a title
if it sold even one a year. i felt it was my duty.
They have no such duty. They have a duty only to turn-
over. And with all that turnover, their profits are not
superior or even close to what we had with a lesser turn-
over. That is in general to talk about the question of
what is going to happen. But there is an opportunity for
an individual store to come in, an individual operator,
and gradually build up a business. He has to work like
hell; he has to do the same thing that I and some others
did when we built our businesses. It can be done.
GARDNER: Well, what about your own future?
EPSTEIN: Well, my future is governed by numbers, and the
numbers are the number of years in one's life. I'm pres-
ently approaching seventy-three. I'm not planning to do
anything much different from what I'm doing right now. For-
tunately I keep busy with a lot of things I'm still inter-
GARDNER: I.e., buying books.
EPSTEIN: Well, I buy books if I buy them cheap enough,
[laughter] I've sort of come back to a love that I've
really never lost: it's the old-book business, and I like
to visit old-book stores and see what I can find. I visit
junk shops, as you know. I boast about buying a book for
a dime and selling it for five dollars sometimes, most of
the time just putting it on my shelf and forgetting about
it, thinking it's worth a lot.
Let's face it, approaching seventy-three, you can't
plan too far ahead; but on the other hand, I'm not planning
just to sit down and sit, either. As long as God gives me
strength and ability to keep my mind going, I intend to just
get around as much as possible. As you know, I work with
the [L.A.] Library Association. We're planning an auction
for sometime next February or March at the [Sotheby] Parke
Bernet galleries. We've got to find 200 people who will
each give us a book or some art object worth approximately
$100. We're hoping to raise $20,000. The Los Angeles
Library Association's running a book sale on the lot at
the library again, like they've done for the last two years.
We've been working on that. Oh, there are any number of
people who call me for this, that, or the other. And I
don't need as much activity as I used to. I still read
book catalogs, books about books. I meet bookmen. I'm
very happy to say that they're all glad to see me. Really.
And we discuss a lot. One of the most gratifying things,
I think, about the whole business of being where I am today
from the route I came through is the fact that along the
way I met so many people, made so many friends, who are
still my friends and who are always happy to see me. I'm
happy to see them. They've always got a question for me
to answer. "What would you do with this? What would you
do with that?" And I give them whatever advice I can,
for whatever it's worth. And amazinqly some of it, they
take and they use. And if I see them doing something
wrong--which I think they could do better, let's put it
that way--I suggest it and very often they pursue it.
There's that thing called respect which I think I have
from them. In spite of the fact they were all theoret-
ically my competitors, there was never that spirit of
antagonistic competition between myself and any of the
others. I think Mr. Campbell will probably tell you that;
I think Walter will tell you that. I think even Lew
Lengfeld, who is the most difficult person in the book
business to get along with--he and competitors don't nor-
mally get along, but he made an exception with me. He
told me one day. He came to my farewell dinner, retirement
dinner. He said, "Louis, you know, you're the only guy I
would ever go to a dinner like this for." I said, "Lew,
I'm very complimented." I knew what he was talking about.
He admits that he doesn't want too much to do with other
booksellers--which is his privilege. I'm happy to have en-
joyed that contact with booksellers — in the old-book trade,
the new-book trade. Occasionally I'll meet a person in the
bookstore, and my name will come up--somebody will mention
my name. And somebody will say, "Oh, I've heard about you
for years. I'm so happy to meet you." They've been in the
trade, but they're younger in the trade. They'll say, "I've
been hearing about you for years." Well, that's not bad to
hear, really. I always say, "Well, I hope some of it was
good." He says, "Oh, my, you're supposed to be the kingpin."
Well, true or not, it's not too bad to hear.
In closing, I have a lot to be thankful for, a lot I'm
gratified about: the librarians, the booksellers, the pub-
lishers, the book readers, the book customers. Writers from
all over the world have been through my bookstore. They
commended me; they found things there that they hadn't
found anywhere else. New Yorkers, who are the hardest
people to please when they come to California, express
amazement and surprise to find a bookstore of the quality
of the Pickwick here, later admitting that there was no
such thing, no store of that kind in New York that had
the kind of stock we had. Authors thanking me for allow-
ing them to browse because the books were their only friends.
Like Elia Kazan telling me publicly, in front of a group of
people, that I personally didn't know how much that book-
store (not necessarily me — me, too, he said, because I spoke
to him, I was friendly to him) helped tide him over one of
the worst periods in his life. He says he didn't know what
he would have done if there was no Pickwick to go to every
night, go up there and go through the stacks in the old
books, picking up a book and reading it. He said he would
have gone mad, or committed suicide, or something. That
strong, is the way he expressed it. Finding books they'd
been looking for for people, helping them solve their
problems. I've great things to look back on.
Abbey Book Shop
Abraham and Straus,
Abrams , Harry N. , Inc.
Acadia Book Shop
Acres of Books
Adams , John Jay
Adco Sports Book Exchange
Agfa film agency
American Antiquarian Booksellers
Southern California Chapter
American Book Prices Current
American Booksellers Association
American Civil Liberties Union
American Retailers Association
Antiquarian Bookman (periodical)
Archer, H. Richard
Arco Publishing Company
Argonaut Book Shop
74, 105, 135
Arrowhead Drinking Water
Association of College Bookstores
August, Cornelia Duchon
Bancroft Junior High School,
Bank of America
Barbierri and Price Book Store
Bass, Marie L.
B. Dalton, Bookseller
Southdale Shopping Center store,
Beneficial Life Insurance Company
Bennett and Marshall
Beverly Hills Book and Record Shop
Beverly Hills Hotel
Beverly Hills Public Library
Biola (Bible Institute of Los
Black, B. , and Sons
Blake, James D.
Blatt, Bertha G.
225, 421, 461
57, 58, 67, 101, 117
526-529, 531, 534
264, 403, 408
B'Nai B' Rith Messenger (newspaper)
Bobbs-Merrill Co., Inc.
Bodkin, John J.
Book Center, The
Books in Print
Books in Review bookstore
Book Treasury, The
Boulevard Book and Art Shop
"How to Spend an Evening in Los
Braun and Reinhold Bookroom
Breed Street Shul (Congregation
Talmud Torah) , Boyle Heights
Broadway Department Stores
Brown ' s Book Shop
Brown Derby Restaurant, Hollywood
Brown, Herbert F.
Bullock's Department Stores
Burbank Public Library
409-410, 448, 457
234, 236-238, 488
Burch, John Q,
California Book Company
California Institute of Technology
Cambridge University Press
Campbell's Book Store
Canterbury Book Shop
Carter Hawley Hale Stores, Inc.
Case School, Cleveland
Case Western Reserve University
"Cavalcade of Books" (TV program)
Cedars of Lebanon Hospital
see Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
Chadwick, Isaac E.
Chaplin, Oona O'Neill
Chase, Mrs. Denny
Cherokee Book Shop
City of Hope
Claremont Book and Art Shop
Clark, Arthur H.
115-116, 140, 457
Coca-Cola of Los Angeles
Cole, Barbara (Mrs. John)
Cole's Book and Craft Shop
College Book Company
Collier ' s Encyclopedia
Communist party, USA
Crown Publishers, Inc.
Curio Book Shop
Dalton, B., Bookseller
see B. Dalton, Bookseller
59, 61, 98, 104,
107, 108, 123-125,
140, 143, 156, 255,
61, 107, 462, 504,
61, 107, 143, 462,
Dawson's Book Shop
De Vorss, Douglas
De Vorss and Company
Dillon, Mrs. John
Dodd, Mead & Co.
Doheny, Mrs. Edward L.
Don the Beachcomber, Hollywood
Doubleday and Company, Inc.
Duchon, Rose Epstein
Dutton, E.P., & Co., Inc
58, 59, 61, 69,
104, 114, 123-
, 128, 143, 156,
3, 8, 12,
East Tech High School, Cleveland
Edmunds, Larry, Cinema and Theatre
Edmunds, Mrs. Larry
189, 432-433, 473,
Ehrlich, Cema Epstein
Eisenhower, Dwight D.
Elder, Paul, & Company, San
Ellis Island, New York
Encyclopedia of Music (Thomson)
Epstein, Ann Goldman
see Ehrlich, Cema Epstein
Epstein, Lillian (Mrs,
Epstein, Mrs. Moses
2-3, 7, 8,
12, 27, 31, 218
Epstein, Reuben [cont'd]
Epstein, Sprishe Sorkin
Epstein, Yetta (Helen)
Epstein's Book Shop
see Acadia Book Shop
Long Beach Book Store
Epstein's, Louis, Book Shop, Long
Epstein's, Louis, Book Shop, Los
Everybody's Used Book, Music, &
40-42, 44, 47, 48-
50, 80, 111, 135-
136, 149, 159, 164,
271, 278, 296
3, 7-8, 16, 34-35,
38, 42, 149, 159,
164-165, 181, 219,
3, 12, 27, 32, 38,
40, 46, 181, 197
115, 121, 124,
158, 159, 163-
201, 241, 255,
Fanny Hill (Cleland)
Federated Department Stores
Feuchtwanger , Lion
Feuchtwanger , Marta
Fitzgerald, F. Scott
Flax, M. , Inc .
Folio, The, Book Shop
Ford Motor Corporation
Fowler Brothers, Inc.
Fowler Brothers [cont'd]
Friends of the UCLA Library
Cans' Book Store
Gardner Avenue School
Gateway to Music
Getz, Robert E.
Gibson, James Patterson
Gilbert, Eddie, Bookstore
Goha the Fool (Ades and Jasapovicha)
Golden Bough Bookstore
Gone with the Wind (film)
Goodhand, Hazel B.
Gordon, Nicholas McDowell ("Mac")
Gordon, Mrs. Nicholas
67, 101, 147-148
54, 68, 148
136-137, 153a, 166-
168, 206, 433
Gore, Marian L.
Guild Rental Library
Hall of Fame Bookshop
Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, Inc.
Harelick and Roth, Booksellers
Harlem Book Company
Harline, Mrs. Lee
Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc.
Harris, Doris, Autographs
Hearst, William Randolph
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
Henry ' s Camera
Heritage Book Shop
Hewitt's Book Store
Hispano-American Book Shop
History of Costume (Racinet)
Hollander and Davidson Fine Books
Hollywood Anti-Nazi League
Hollywood Book Shop
Hollywood High School
Hollywood Wax Museum
Holmes, Norman C.
Holmes Book Company, Los Angeles
Holmes Book Company, San Francisco
Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Inc.
Home of Peace Memorial Park and
Horan, C.F., Bookstore
House of Whites
How to Win Friends
Hoyt, Larry, family
Hunter ' s Books
296, 298, 405,
463, 482, 504
227, 415-417, 525,
78-79, 159, 163
451, 455, 477
Immaculate Heart College 337-339
Information, Please (radio program) 219
Ingraham, Mr. 141
International Bookfinders 523
Intro, Sol 292
Iron Curtain over America (Beatty) 359
Isherwood, Christopher 335
Jewish American Book Shop
Jewish Consumptive Relief Associa-
tion of Los Angeles
Jewish Federation Council of
Greater Los Angeles
Jewish Home for the Aged
John Birch Society
Johnson, Mrs. Charlie
Jones Book Stores
403, 408, 433
76, 196, 277
62-63, 116, 117,
140, 150, 152-153,
Kaspare Cohn Hospital
see Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
Klein, Robert, Jr.
Knopf, Alfred A., Inc.
Kohn, "Soldier Joe"
Korach Company, Chicago
Kovach, Nick A.
Larson, John R.
Larson, Louise (Mrs.
Lee Drug Company
Levinson, Mrs. Harry
Lillie, Mildred L.
Lippincott, J.B., Co.
Little, Brown & Co.
Lofland and Russell Bookstore
London Times Literary Supplement
Long Beach Book Store
Long Beach Press-Telegram
Los Angeles Daily News (newspaper)
Los Angeles Examiner (newspaper)
Los Angeles Library Association
Los Angeles News (newspaper)
Los Angeles News Company
Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
Los Angeles Public Library
Los Angeles Times (newspaper)
538, 542, 559
51, 58, 69, 139, 255,
350, 414, 417
51-57, 228-230, 252
McGraw-Hill Book Co.
McKay, David, Co., Inc.
Macmillan Company, The
McPherson, Aimee Semple
Handle, Mrs. Sol
see Borden, Sarah
Marriner's Stationers and Bookseller
Marshall Field & Company
Martindale, Etta L. (Mrs. Walter W. )
Martindale, Virginia (Mrs. VJalter)
Martindale, Walter W.
Martindale 's Book Stores, Inc.
Martindale ' s , William, Book Store,
Merriam, G. & C, Company
Miller, Jesse Ray
Miller, Paul Burt
Miller's Books and Stationery
Moby Dick Book Shop
176, 345-347, 350,
Modern Library (Random House)
Mohr, Mrs. Richard
Morrow, William, & Co. , Inc.
Musso & Frank Grill
Natick Book Store
National Book Award
National Book Week
National Cash Registers
National Geographic (periodical)
Natural History (Pliny)
Needham Book Finders
Neuman, Walter E.
Neville Book Company
Newbegin's, San Francisco
New York Bookstore
New York Herald Tribune (newspaper)
New York Times (newspaper)
Noyes, Mrs. Dick
Ohio Jobbing Company
Ohio State University
Order of the Coif
Old Book Shop
Olive Street Synagogue
Open Book Shop
Osborne's Book Store, Santa
Otis Art Institute
Outlet Publishing Company
Oxford University Press
Paradise Book and Stationery Shop
Perkins, P.D. and lone, bookstore
Pick, Richard J.
Pick's Book Shop
Pickwick Book Shop, Hollywood
157, 203, 260
118-119, 120, 145
5, 37, 47-49, 55,
65, 106-107, 118,
140, 144, 146-147,
153a, 165, 172a,
174-176, 191, 194-
420, 423, 424-
Pickwick Book Shop, Hollywood
San Diego (Mission Valley
see also B. Dalton, Bookseller
Pickwick Papers, The (Dickens)
Pinans, Mrs. Juan
Pottenger, Francis M.
Powell, Lawrence Clark
Vroman' s of Pasadena (book)
Powner ' s Bookstore
Pritchard, Virginia Cole
Publisher' s Weekly (periodical)
Putnam's, G.P., Sons
Rabalette News and Book Agency
Random House, Inc.
Raymar Book Company
Red Arrow Service
Reiser, Marie (Mrs. Sam)
Reiser, Sam, Bookstore
Reiser, Samuel, Bookseller
Research Magazine and Book Shop
Retail Clerks International
Association, Local 777
597-606, 607, 608
410-411, 561, 590
82, 123, 250
Reynolds, Jack E.
Ritchie, Ward, Press
Robinson, Edward G.
Robinson's department store
Rogers Book Shop
Roosevelt, Franklin D.
Rose, Mrs. Stanley
Rose, Stanley, bookstore
138, 155-156, 410,
153a, 166-168, 169-
179, 189, 201, 205-
206, 224, 257, 261,
168, 171-172a, 205-
Salop, Mrs. Morris
Satyr Book Shop
266-267, 268, 269-
136-137, 153a, 166,
168, 200, 205, 206,
Scribner ' s Book Store, New York
Scribner's, Charles, Sons
Severe, Gladys (Mrs, Lloyd)
Shelton, Dickson L.
Sheppard, Mullin, Richter, Baltnis
Shorey Book Store, Seattle
Shuman, Mrs. Bill
Simon and Schuster, Inc.
Singer Company, The
Sister Mary Faith
Smith, Gerald L.K.
Smith, Olen W.
Smith, Roy see
Smith, Wilbur J.
see Kohn, "Soldier Joe"
Solomon's Hebrew and English
Sorkin, Mrs. Itzchak
Sotheby Parke Bernet
401, 402-403, 412,
81, 165-166, 183
Southern California Booksellers
Publishers Relations Committee
Southern California Historical
Sparkletts Drinking Water Corpora-
Specialist, The (Sale)
S.S. Cedric (ship)
Stackhouse, Ed ("Stack")
Stansberry, Mrs. Ray
Storm, Mrs. John
Stratford and Greene bookstore
Strieker, Thomas Perry
Sunset News Company
62-63, 140, 150-
Taylor, Joseph H.
Frontier and Indian Life
Technical Book Company
Tecolote Bookshop, Santa Barbara
Temple Beth Am
Temple Beth El
Thor ' s Book and Magazine Shop
Todd, John W. , Jr.
To Have and to Hold (Johnson)
Twentieth Century-Fox Studios
United Jewish Welfare Fund
United States Bank
U.S. Federal Trade Commission
U.S. Supreme Court
University of California,
University of California, Los
Special Collections, Library
University of Oklahoma Press
University of Paris
University of Southern California
Ver Brugge, Josephine
Ver Brugge Books
Verne's Hollywood Book Shop
Vista Del Mar
265-266, 404, 501
525, 545, 551
138, 210, 250-251,
401-402, 423, 542-
543, 549, 563, 571-
572, 573, 594
Walker Book Shop
609, 625, 626
Warner Brothers Records
Washington Post (newspaper)
We i s s ,
Wepplo, Harry, Bookstore
Westerners, Los Angeles Corral
Wettereau, Mrs. Robert
Wheeler, Allan H.
Wheeler Publishing Company
Whittier Book Shop
Memoirs of Hecate County
Woodruff, Raymone (Mrs. Stu)
Woodfurr Book Store
World Book Company
World Health Organization
World News Company
World Publishing Company
Wright, Frank Lloyd
412-413, 414, 432
Yale, Bud (Charlie, Jr.)
Ye Olde Book Shoppe, Long Beach
Ye Olde Book Shoppe, San Diego
Young Men's Christian Association
Zainboni , Karl
Zamboni, Mrs. Karl
Zeitlin, Edith (Mrs. Jake)
Zeitlin, Jean (Mrs. Jake)
Zeitlin, Josephine Ver Brugge
230, 482, 484
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